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Why It's Easier To Get Lost; Details On The Connection Of Satnav Use And Brain Activity [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 24, 2017 10:27 AM EDT

A new study makes a strong case of not always doing what you are told. The University College London's (UCL) department of experimental psychology has published their findings that satellite navigation devices or satnavs turn off parts of the brain that stimulate navigational skills and simulation of routes.

The researchers employed volunteers to navigate the SoHo district of London in a simulation and were connected to brain scanning equipment. Some were given instructions to travel by GPS while others were instructed to analyze the directions manually.

The results of the study showed that the travelers who worked out their route on their own had exhibited spikes of activity in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. Those who got instructions from satnavs did not any have similar brain activity, The Guardian reported. The hippocampus is the brain area that handles memory and navigation while the prefrontal cortex manages planning and decision-making.

A reliance on satnavs could make the brain disinterested in learning directions. When the brain has something telling us where to go, this kind of brain activity will switch off and the brain will be unresponsive to the street network. This can affect the brain in the future and make GPS users learn slower or follow and create routes unaided, the Reuters reported. The study hopes that satnav users will realize that the technology has its uses and limitations.

Using GPS devices while driving can even cause the brain to abandon common sense altogether. These might have actually happened to you when you followed Waze to a dead end instead of relying on your instincts to turn at a different corner to reach your destination. The findings of the study can shed light on accidents caused by GPS glitches where this reliance on technology make travelers insist on following the device rather than common sense.

The UCL study was first published in the journal Nature Communications.

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