Scientists say using a Satnav can switch off part of the brain, which could have implications for our health.
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.
1 Following the directions of a satnav have deep effects on our brains.
2 Driving around Soho is not difficult.
3 The hippocampus stops working when drivers use a satnav.
4 Seven roads start at Seven Dials in Covent Garden.
5 Taxi drivers in general have the most developed hippocampus.
6 There are around 26,000 places of interest in London.
7 Medical research has proved that underuse of the hippocampus leads to mental diseases.
Some drivers like to follow their nose. Others are more than happy to be told where to go.
After 100 yards, bear left...
More and more people will not leave home without their trusty sat-nav.
It is vital to find places easily.
It is, sort of, I suppose takes the stress out of going somewhere that you don't know.
But what effect does slavishly following directions have on our brains? Neuro scientists at University College London have published research claiming it’s quite profound. Volunteers like Will here were taken around Soho, one of the most complicated road networks in the world. They were then put in an MRI scanner and, using virtual reality, were asked give directions.
So what we did here is look into the human brain, at Will’s brain and many others, to see is there a part of the brain that knows automatically the number of options or the changes in the number of options. But when the volunteers were told the route using a Satnav, scientists noticed the navigational area of the brain, called the hippocampus, stopped working.
You’re no longer engaging those bits of your brain that you would do normally if you were using your memory to sort of pick apart the street network as you navigate. So effectively, the Satnav is turning off the engagement of these brain areas.
Now this is Seven Dials in Covent Garden, and it’s called that for a reason. There are seven different roads converging so I have lots of options here and my brain is currently trying to work out which road to take. But not just that, which road to take after that, and after that, and after that. It’s processing lots of information to try and get me to my destination as quickly and safely as possible. But, this research suggests, if I were to activate my Satnav here, this will do all the decision-making for me. So that part of my brain just switches off.
This research builds on a previous study which found London's black cab drivers have the most developed hippocampus. They have to memorise thousands of roads, routes and landmarks.
It is not in your long term memory, it’s in your short term memory.
Then the brain very quickly becomes a sponge once again and it clicks on to this road leads to this road that leads to that road, I can’t do that road because it’s one way. And in over a series… an amount of time, it grows and grows and grows. So that said, you know, it’s extremely difficult, not just because you’ve got to know 26,000 roads, and thousands and thousands of places of interest, but it’s… we are remembering how to remember them again.
The research team wants to build on the study to explore the wider medical implications, whether underuse of the hippocampus, for example, contributes to the onset of Alzheimer and dementia. But for the first time, there is firm evidence that switching this on switches off an important part of our brain.
Marc Ashdown, BBC London news.
5F (London's black cab drivers)
6F (26,000 roads)
7F (it’s just a hypothesis)