It is not uncommon that when arriving at a new site we all take advantage of Google Maps or some GPS navigator. This has become part of our day to day and is already making a dent. According to the Nature Communication journal, our brain power to remember navigations is deactivated when we use this type of applications and tools, because the areas of the brain responsible for spatial orientation reduce their activity.
The sense of spatial orientation and navigation is in the posterior hippocampus of our brain. At the beginning of the 21st century, a study that lasted 10 years showed that London taxi drivers had more gray matter in this area, having had to memorize 25 thousand London streets to get the license. The experiment was repeated with a sample of 24 volunteers, and the results are interesting.
These 24 volunteers had to move through a virtual map of Soho (an area of London). They had to do 10 routes. In five of them, the volunteers were assisted by a GPS, while in the other five they had to complete the race manually, choosing whether to turn left, right or go straight.
According to the results of the report, when the volunteers made the route without help, the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex showed a greater activity when arriving at a new street. This activity multiplied if there were several possibilities. However, when the taxi drivers were aided by a GPS, this activity was reduced, since the interpretation of the map was null and the possibilities were reduced to one. That is, our brain GPS to remember routes was deactivated.
When we drive, walk or navigate a map manually, a part of the hippocampus establishes connections from the streets, while another part of the same identifies the characteristics of the same. With these two elements together, the prefrontal cortex chooses the best option to reach the destination. When we use a GPS that does not happen, and the brain completely disengages itself from what is happening.