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Using the Global Positioning System, better known as GPS, to get to a destination shuts off areas of the brain that, if don’t use this satellite navigation system, would be activated to simulate different routes, says a study published in the journal Nature.
The research, carried out by University College London , had 24 volunteers whose brains were analyzed while wandering through a digital simulation of the London neighborhood of Soho. Experts analyzed their activity in the hippocampus , a region of the brain related to memory and navigation , and the prefrontal cortex, the region in charge of planning and decision making.
Thus, they could observe that when the volunteers did not use a satellite navigator, their hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex had peaks of activity as they entered new streets.
This brain activity increased, even more, when the number of options increased; However, no change in brain activity was observed when the volunteers followed the GPS instructions.
The study also revealed that when passing through places where there are several streets, it improves activity in the hippocampus, while the hippocampus shows almost no variation as it enters a dead-end street.
One of the authors, psychology professor Hugo Spiers, explained that the results of his observation confirm that “when technology is telling us where we need to go, these parts of the brain do not directly respond. Our brain turns off the interest in the streets that surround it.”
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In addition, the team analyzed the street network of other major cities in the world to find out which ones were easier to navigate.
In this way they found, for example, that while London is one of the hardest cities in this sense, Manhattan requires much less mental effort because of its straight street format.
Previous experiments carried out by the same university showed that the hippocampus of London taxi drivers expanded as they memorized the streets and landscapes of the British capital and, on the other hand, those who used the GPS did not show improvement in this aspect, thus limiting its Knowledge of the streets of the city.