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Emerging evidence shows that relying too much on satnavs can reduce the driver's ability to learn and remember

Most of us will have at least one satnav horror story after they have put all their faith in technology just to lead us to a road to nowhere.

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Many of such stories are so incredible that they are comical. There was the Syrian truck driver who brought his 32-tonne truck to Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire instead of the small peninsula 1600 miles away at the southernmost tip of Spain, and the woman who blindly followed instructions from her navigation system, even if it told her that send her £ 96,000 Mercedes into the river – oh irony! – in Leicestershire.

In 2017, it was revealed that a viaduct in Chelmsford, Essex, was the site of 30 frontal collisions in five years, because the TomTom and Google Maps navigation systems steered drivers the wrong way on the one-way street.

Emerging evidence shows that relying too much on satnavs can reduce the driver's ability to learn and remember

Emerging evidence shows that relying too much on satnavs can reduce the driver's ability to learn and remember

Of course, most of us are far too sensible to ignore our feeling that the computer is wrong, especially if it tells you to dive straight into a fast-flowing river.

What these yarns tell us is that satellite navigation systems – like many other & # 39; life-enhancing & # 39; technologies – now so firmly embedded in modern culture that some people will blindly follow their orders instead of thinking for themselves.

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But can our daily dependence on this type of technology affect our brains? Traveling to new destinations meant studying a map, reading road signs and making decisions in half a second – in other words, a thoroughly good workout for the brain.

Even a wrong turn was an essential part of the learning process. The error would be written in our memory, not to be repeated.

It is the reason why studies show that London taxi drivers – who memorize every city in memory for four years – are part of & # 39; The Knowledge & # 39; – usually have a larger hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays an important role in memory.

In the meantime, technology is also reducing workloads in other ways. We no longer have to remember things like phone numbers or birthdays, because they are all stored on our smartphones.

Two parts of the brain - the hippocampus, which analyzes possible routes, and the pre-frontal cortex, those plans that will take us to our destination - are unused when drivers follow the gadget's instructions

Two parts of the brain - the hippocampus, which analyzes possible routes, and the pre-frontal cortex, those plans that will take us to our destination - are unused when drivers follow the gadget's instructions

Two parts of the brain – the hippocampus, which analyzes possible routes, and the pre-frontal cortex, those plans that will take us to our destination – are unused when drivers follow the gadget's instructions

There are indications that this over-reliance on technology may have a negative effect on the brain's ability to learn and recall information.

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A study by University College London last year looked at the degree of brain activity when volunteers used a computer-driving simulator to navigate through Soho – one of the busiest areas in London.

They could choose which turns they took and change their mind if they encountered a congestion. The results, published in the journal Nature Communications, revealed that the activity peaks in two areas, the hippocampus, which analyzes possible routes, and the pre-frontal cortex, those plans that will take us to our destination.

Every time the volunteers choose their own routes through the street, the activity levels peaked. But when they repeated the tasks using GPS, scans showed virtually no increase in activity levels in both brain areas.

One of the questions scientists want to answer is whether this dependence on technology has long-term effects on memory and whether it can even cause dementia. The hippocampus is, after all, involved in our consolidation of short-term memories into long-term memories, and memory loss is a characteristic of dementia.

Professor Til Wykes, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College in London, says that relying entirely on technology is likely to lead to memory recall problems.

This map shows the 186 mile difference between being in Wales the country or the Wales the small village of Yorkshire, near Sheffield
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This map shows the 186 mile difference between being in Wales the country or the Wales the small village of Yorkshire, near Sheffield

This map shows the 186 mile difference between being in Wales the country or the Wales the small village of Yorkshire, near Sheffield

She says: & # 39; The expression & # 39; use or lose it & # 39; is relevant because if skills such as recalling memories are appreciated, our dependence on technology is problematic. We know that when we rely on Google and GPS systems, we lose some skills. & # 39;

This outsourcing of information from the brain is what scientists & # 39; cognitive stool & # 39; to mention. That is when we do everything we can to reduce the workload. It may be as simple as counting with your fingers, rather than just in your head, or writing a shopping list instead of remembering the messages you need.

Cognitive offloading is not new, but modern technology has taken it to a whole new level where, instead of acting primarily as a resource for the brain, it almost replaces it in some circumstances.

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The inability to recall information that we have stored on our smartphone even has a name: digital memory loss.

How to prevent digital memory loss

If you write notes, you keep more

Scientists believe that keyboard users process much less information than pen users who have to concentrate mentally on the most relevant facts – meaning they store more of the information.

Rather trust your memory than photos & # 39; s

In a study, visitors to a museum were allowed to take photos of certain exhibitions, but not of others.

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The volunteers were much less able to remember details of those who photographed them than those who did not.

Stop saving numbers on your phone

Studies have shown that if we believe that information cannot be stored on a computer and will be deleted, we will naturally remember it.

Keep an address book at home and remember the important telephone numbers.

Dr. Benjamin Storm, a researcher working on a study of technology and memory at the University of California, said: & Research shows that if we use the internet to support and expand our memory, we become more dependent on it . Time will tell whether this pattern will have far-reaching consequences for human memory. & # 39;

Prof. Wykes adds: & We should consider technology as a support and not as a substitute for cognitive skills.

& # 39; That means it's better if technology isn't as smart as it is. Then we can practice our cognitive skills. & # 39;

For example, she says that satnav can offer motorists a number of different options for a journey, leaving the final decision to them.

Prof. Petroc Sumner, an expert in neuroscience at Cardiff University, says that cognitive offloading on a large scale means that our ability to perform specific mental tasks, such as reading cards, will suffer.

But he adds: & # 39; There is no evidence that I know that overall cognitive ability suffers. A parallel can be dishwashers – our dishwashing skills might suffer, but there is no evidence that overall agility and coordination suffer. & # 39;

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Others recommend occasional technology breaks. & # 39; There is currently no good evidence of long-term learning or brain capacity problems & # 39 ;, says Prof Thom Baguely, professor of experimental psychology at Nottingham Trent University. & # 39; But I would recommend drivers to sometimes switch off satnav. & # 39;

In addition to turning off the GPS, there are other ways to keep the brain sharp …

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