Satnav Switches Off Your Brain

Posted: Mar 22 2017, 8:20am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Satnav Switches off Your Brain
This map shows the 'degree centrality' of all the streets in central London. This reflects how many other streets are connected to each street, with blue representing simple streets with few connecting streets and red representing complex streets with many connecting streets. CREDIT: Joao Pinelo Silva
  • Using satnavs 'switch off' parts of the brain

Apparently, satnav may lead the brain of its user to go into idleness mode.

Employing a satnav to reach your goal may switch off those parts of the brain responsible for finding different routes. The study was published in a journal. 24 subjects navigated in a simulation of Soho.

Their brains were being scanned all the time. There was activity in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The former is responsible for memory and navigation. The latter is used in planning and choices.

The brains of the users reacted to the maze of London’s streets. When participants navigated ths streets on a manual basis, the two regions of the brain, mentioned in the previous paragraph, showed surges in electrical activity.

This was especially so when the streets were new ones. Yet when the volunteers used satnav, the spikes were not very marked in their intensity. Take the Seven Dials in London. It is a crossroads where seven streets meet.

Normally looking at it would drive up hippocampus activity whereas a dead end would drive it down. When people have a difficult time navigating the streets of London on their own, they are putting a burden on their hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

However, when technology does all the work for us, these brain centers are left idle. They simple switch off and don’t respond to stimuli anymore. All the interest and curiosity simply vanish without a trace.

While navigating London is taxing on the hippocampus, finding one’s way in Manhattan takes less effort. Thus navigation technology may play a very important role in the future.

Navigation technology may help those with dementia since it takes the burden off the brain of the patient. Yet while satnavs have their plus points, they also have their drawbacks. They allow the brains of normal people go idle and lie fallow without doing any sort of puzzle-solving.

This study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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