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Follow the GPS—And Learn Nothing

Follow the GPS—And Learn Nothing

Think the best advice is to follow the GPS? Wrong: You don’t learn how to navigate by just blindly following instructions—and that can dull your wits, or even lead to disaster. Remember the couple who were stranded in an Oregon national park last year after following their GPS straight into a pile of snow?

British researchers monitored the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex activity of volunteers while they drove through London. Apparently, navigating and driving through the streets puts a very high demand on your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, the parts of your brain that use and strengthen working and reference memory.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true when you navigate using GPS. You pretty much disengage your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex and don’t really get to know your surroundings—and you’re doing one more digital activity that distances you from engagement in real life. So, expand your neural network by opening an atlas, get an online map and study the roadways and routes available. Then, head out for an adventure. If you make a wrong turn, don’t fret. Heck, if you Google “GPS wrong directions” you get millions of online complaints! We bet you can do better than that relying on your brain and eyes.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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