GPS Systems May Not Be Good For Your Brain
From My Fox Boston:
A new study suggests that, for memory’s sake, it may be wiser to slow down and smell the roses than rush to a destination using a GPS.
Three studies by McGill University assistant professor of psychiatry Veronique Bohbot suggest active GPS users have a higher risk of suffering memory problems as they get older
Oh no, as a completely addicted Geocacher I’m doomed to have dementia!
The studies focused on how people navigate. One method, spatial navigation strategy, forces people to rely on landmarks to build cognitive maps. This is how a lost person stays aware of landmarks or how long it’s been since they left a place in order to find their way.
Another, a stimulus-response strategy, is when people use a form of auto-pilot, turning at specific places because they have so many times before. This is similar to using a GPS device.
Okay, there maybe some light here. I would argue that GPS use in geocaching was actually more like spatial navigation strategy as we don’t just follow the GPS we have to move around things and work out the best route to the cache. We also have to take note of our surroundings to spot the thing that is out of place – that surely uses spatial navigation.
However, urban caching may cause people to jump a little into auto-pilot and thus be stimulus-response.
those who used the GPS-like stimulus-response could be at risk of showing atrophy of the hippocampus, which is of concern because memory loss including Alzheimer’s disease affects that area of the brain first.
MSNBC.com said older adults who used spatial strategies more have a larger hippocampus and scored higher on a test used to help diagnose mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
So, potentially, geocachers may be less at risk of suffering memory problems due to greater use of spatial strategies. However, urban cachers may be more at risk if they delve into stimulus-response more. 😉
- Walking May Cut Alzheimer’s Risk (webmd.com)
- Blog Glob: “GPS addict? It may be eroding your brain” (westallen.typepad.com)
- GPS Systems May Not Be Good Your Brain (myfoxny.com)
- Becoming a GPS zombie – eroding your brain. (mindblog.dericbownds.net)