Here’s the deal
Old school truck drivers have millions of miles under their belts. The good ol’ days required drivers to use an Atlas and old fashioned directions to get them around. The truth of the matter is, more than a few hundred-thousand of those miles were over familiar ground. Memorizing routes and asking other drivers for recommendation were ways of life. Now we’ve entered the era of the GPS. Skills of reading a map slowly diminished as drivers became more dependent on technology to tell them what to do. Studies have shown brain behavior changes in people that rely on turn-by-turn directions provided by their GPS units. According to research, “when people use tools such as GPS, they tend to engage less with navigation. Therefore, the brain area responsible for navigation is less used, and consequently their brain areas involved in navigation tend to shrink.”
Use it or lose it, right?
Scientists are referring to the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is crucial in many aspects of daily life. “The hippocampus allows us to orient in space and know where we are by creating cognitive maps. It also allows us to recall events from the past, what is known as episodic memory. Remarkably, it is the part of the brain that scientists believe gives us the ability to imagine ourselves in the future. “Meanwhile, atrophy in that part of the brain is linked to devastating conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Adults with a history of exercising that part of the brain with tasks like navigating and using memory, coupled with visual stimuli to help form a picture of a route or a trip, have greater hippocampal volume. This seems to be a protector against the onset of dementia. Really.
Paying attention to the environment stimulates that area of the brain, contributing to the protection against Alzheimer’s disease as well.
Too many times, drivers dutifully following GPS directions end up in unforeseen obstacles. For example, a low bridge, weight restriction, or worse, either of the above with a local cop nearby. Fines for this in some places, such as Pennsylvania, have been known to run up to tens of thousands of dollars. Yikes! Today’s GPS systems do not guarantee success in these situations.
Get back to the basics of planning your route. Know where you are going and get there safely and ticket free while you work out your brain. It’s a Win-Win!