GPS navigation is undoubtedly one of the greatest facilities of modern technology. This technology itself is quite old, but satellite navigation devices have become very popular recently. Each of us has a smartphone in a pocket. We can check our location at any time and route to the destination using a free app. Without a doubt, there is great credit to Google Maps, whose maps are accurate and up-to-date. Therefore, drivers are most likely to enjoy this GPS navigation on their journeys, both on the road and in the city.

However, not from today, you can find the opinion that satellite navigation fools drivers. On the Internet we can find many stories as someone drove into the lake or a truck stucked under too low flyover. So, some true is in this statement. Researchers from University College London have confirmed that we do not use certain areas of our brain when we are using GPS navigation. This is quite logical because we do not have to plan a route and the application does it for us. Research has shown that hippocampus activity and prefrontal cortex of the brain is practically zero when we are navigated by the GPS.

GPS fail

Researchers monitored the brain activity of 24 people when they were using GPS navigation

All this was done in a special simulator that reflected the Soho district in London. The whole experiment consisted of two stages. In first, volunteers had to move around in a simulated environment themselves. The researchers noted that when we had to determine our own route and choose a route, our hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are extremely active. Interestingly, the greatest activity of these areas of the brain occurs when we approach the crossroads with many possible roads. However, when we use a navigation system (e.g. GPS), our brain does not react even to the most complicated crossroads. Additional readings indicate that the hippocampus analyses movement along possible routes. The frontal cortex is responsible for choosing the best route for us.

Soho London
Soho district in London

Does GPS navigation increase our safety?

Personally I think that yes, it does. However, the driver has to know how to benefits from the technology. An experiment conducted by University College London scientists can be interpreted in very interesting way.  Our brain is relieved by GPS navigation, so we can devote more attention to potential dangers. For example, the driver may watch the pedestrian crossings more closely and react faster to the unpredictable behaviour of other drivers. However, excessive use of navigation systems and hope in the infallibility of installed maps may prove to be fatal.

Already in previous studies, the same researchers have found that London taxi drivers have a well-developed hippocampus. This is due to the fact that they have to memorize very complicated street nets with many possible routes from point A to point B. Unfortunately, it may turn out that in a few decades, excessive use of GPS navigation will cause that some areas of our brains to be very underdeveloped. What’s worse, some of us may lose the ability to plan independently and choose the best road. We may be not able to accomplish this kind of task without the help of a smartphone.

Source: Live Science

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The speaker at conferences telecommunications. He specializes in Linux system management, computer networks, but also in the free space propagation model. Network and Systems Administrator of Linux. An administrator with more than ten years of experience. Specialist Safety and Red Hat Certified Engineer. He has been cooperating with our company a good couple of years :)