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  (Source: media.mcclatchydc.com)
Excessive use of GPS units could lead to Alzheimer's disease

McGill University researchers conducted a series of three studies which magnify the effects GPS systems have on the human brain, and found that avid GPS users have a higher risk of suffering from problems with memory and spatial orientation. 

Veronique Bohbot, associate professor of psychiatry at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University, along with a team of McGill researchers, found that those who use a GPS system to navigate often have a higher chance of damaging a region of the brain that controls memory. 

Humans generally navigate using one of two methods. The first is a spatial navigation strategy where landmarks are used to build cognitive maps that help us figure out where we are without the use of a GPS. The second is a stimulus-response strategy where we drive in auto-pilot mode, making turns in certain places because repetition tells us that this is the best way to reach a specific destination. This second strategy is more closely related to the way GPS users navigate.

"When it comes to finding my way, I've become a GPS zombie," said Jean Snyder, a 47-year-old office manager in Highland Heights, Ohio. "I'm sure I'm not doing my brain any favors."

When functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI, was performed on those who navigate both spatially and through stimulus-response strategies, people who used a spacial navigation strategy had increased activity in an area of the brain involved with memory and navigation known as the hippocampus. 

McGill researchers found that excessive use of a GPS unit may lead to atrophy of the hippocampus as we age, which puts the person at risk for cognitive problems such as Alzheimer's disease later in life. Alzheimer's disease affects the hippocampus first before any other part of the brain, which leads to problems with spatial orientation and memory. 

In addition, researchers found a "greater volume of grey matter" within the hippocampus of spatial strategy-using adults. On a standardized cognition test, which helps diagnose cognitive impairment, these adults scored higher than those who don't use spatial strategies. According to the study, these results suggest that spatial memory increases hippocampus activity, which then results in an increased quality of life. 

While researchers have found evidence relating hippocampus activity to memory, there are still questions surrounding this research. For instance, researchers are unsure as to whether using spacial strategies causes the hippocampus to grow, or if having a "robust" hippocampus causes an individual to use spacial strategies. 

Either way, using spatial strategies instead of the GPS would be helpful in lessening the deterioration of memory. The study isn't encouraging everyone to throw their GPS units away, but to take a break now and then. 

"We live in a society that's so fast paced that it encourages us to feel bad if we get lost," said Bohbot. "What I say to people is that we can use GPS to explore the environment, but don't become dependent on it. Developing a cognitive map may take longer, but it's worth the investment." 

These studies were presented at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting on November 14. 




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Logic flaw
By redbone75 on 11/16/2010 12:36:27 PM , Rating: 3
This study seems to assume that the only time the subjects use spatial cognition is when travelling. There very well could have been more reasons there was decreased activity in that area of the brain amongst some of the subjects. Luckily, I actually read the article and found this:
quote:
For example, research at the University of London showed that part of the hippocampus of London taxi cab drivers is actually larger than that of a non-taxi driver control group. Despite the most experienced drivers having the most robust hippocampus, it's still not known whether finding those novel routes through London's Byzantine maze of streets caused the hippocampus to grow, or if having a robust hippocampus helps a person become a successful cab driver, explains Epstein.

I wouldn't exactly say the study was useless, but far more research needs to go into the subject matter before findings are released.




RE: Logic flaw
By ketchup79 on 11/16/2010 1:08:36 PM , Rating: 2
I would just like to voice my opinion about how stupid and useless this study is.
1. GPS units have not been out long enough to track such long-term effects in individuals.
2. Did people develop Alzheimer's all the time before cars were invented because they were not able to develop that part of their hippocampus?
3. Are these people using GPS units when walking around the house/office/etc?


RE: Logic flaw
By tng on 11/16/2010 1:58:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
2. Did people develop Alzheimer's all the time before cars were invented because they were not able to develop that part of their hippocampus?
Well it is thought by some scientists out there that many reported cases of Alzheimer's is actually mad cow disease in human form. Of course no one but a small group of people are checking into this and it never makes headline news for obvious reasons....


RE: Logic flaw
By JediJeb on 11/16/2010 2:38:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
3. Are these people using GPS units when walking around the house/office/etc?


Probably they are. Honestly I work with someone who turns their GPS unit on even when we are just driving two miles down the road to lunch, every day. That's fine when you first buy it and are curious about how it works, but over a year later I would think the new would have worn off.

I could see one being useful if driving to a city I have never been to before, but that would be the only time I would turn one on if I had one. I guess growing up tracking miles through the woods hunting and exploring with out even taking a map along makes me jaded on the subject a little, but I have never seemed to need more than a map and a little dead reckoning to get where I am going.


RE: Logic flaw
By UNHchabo on 11/16/2010 2:54:43 PM , Rating: 2
Or you can be like me, and get a very outdated GPS unit, so it will occasionally direct you towards the wrong location, and you have to be smart enough to recognize when that happens. ;)


RE: Logic flaw
By peldor on 11/16/2010 3:17:44 PM , Rating: 2
I just use Google Maps. Same effect.


RE: Logic flaw
By kingius on 11/17/2010 10:47:56 AM , Rating: 2
We may be heading for a future where those who over rely on technology discover they are significantly more stupid than those who do not.


RE: Logic flaw
By ranran on 11/18/2010 9:35:31 AM , Rating: 2
Lol!

Good one and if I knew how to rate, I'd do it.. :)


RE: Logic flaw
By geddarkstorm on 11/17/2010 5:34:48 PM , Rating: 2
What? You -don't- want to jetski across the Pacific?


RE: Logic flaw
By FITCamaro on 11/16/2010 3:06:19 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah they're great to have if visiting somewhere you've never been. But if you're using one to just to somewhere you've been more than once, there's a problem.


RE: Logic flaw
By marvdmartian on 11/17/2010 11:54:43 AM , Rating: 1
And yet, I'm guessing that the "research" used in this study had people doing exactly that.

Certainly, if you're not using memories you have, to guide you to a place you know how to go to, and instead rely solely on a GPS unit, it could have an eventual effect on the ability to make/use that type of memory.

But honestly, how many people are we talking about, that would do such a thing?


RE: Logic flaw
By Natch on 11/17/2010 8:00:07 PM , Rating: 2
Must be some haters on the board, knocking down perfectly logical statements with no reason?


Cause and effect
By flurazepam on 11/16/2010 12:27:05 PM , Rating: 1
I won't even touch the cause and effect aspect of this study. Using a GPS <> getting Alzheimer's disease; that's ridiculous. There are many genetic, environmental and immunological aspects to the etiology of this disease. Also, decades ago when Alois Alzheimer characterized the disease they hardly had wide spread electricity never mind GPS units. But I digress.

The take home message here should instead be: if you don't use it you may lose it.




RE: Cause and effect
By Dr of crap on 11/16/2010 1:05:02 PM , Rating: 2
It didn't say if you use your GPS you'll get Alzheimers. It said that the decrease use of the hippocampus, in which using a GPS is ONE example, would set one up to get Alzheimers. There is no absolute link. Just that you should be able to navigate without GPS some time.

Jeeze people use that gray matter.
When I moved to a new town 30 years ago, I got out the city map and learned the highway system. From driving to distant stores and places I opened up my knowledge of the city, to where now I know my way around better than someone that has lived here their whole life.

As for GPS - I maybe, just maybe go somewhere that I don't know my way to maybe once a year. Then I use Mapquest. We are becoming a nation of lazy, computer driven zomies, that can't think for themselves.

And I am not talking of posters here. At least you readers have some brain power. But I am amazed every day how stupid people are with everyday things.


RE: Cause and effect
By INeedCache on 11/16/2010 3:57:30 PM , Rating: 2
I forgot where my GPS unit is.


RE: Cause and effect
By dayanth on 11/16/2010 8:40:31 PM , Rating: 2
It's right next to your Medulla Oblongata.


RE: Cause and effect
By JediJeb on 11/17/2010 10:11:20 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
And I am not talking of posters here. At least you readers have some brain power. But I am amazed every day how stupid people are with everyday things.


Reminds me of the story about a person who could not get their car open because the battery in the remote was dead. Another came along and used the key to open the door then told them to drive across the street and buy a new battery.


RE: Cause and effect
By flurazepam on 11/17/2010 11:45:22 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
It didn't say if you use your GPS you'll get Alzheimers. It said that the decrease use of the hippocampus, in which using a GPS is ONE example, would set one up to get Alzheimers. There is no absolute link. Just that you should be able to navigate without GPS some time.


True, but the article did insinuate that it may cause Alzheimers. Not only that it also provided a remedy as well!

Implication that it may cause Alzheimer's disease:
quote:
McGill researchers found that excessive use of a GPS unit may lead to atrophy of the hippocampus as we age, which puts the person at risk for cognitive problems such as Alzheimer's disease later in life. Alzheimer's disease affects the hippocampus first before any other part of the brain, which leads to problems with spatial orientation and memory.


Remedy:
quote:

Either way, using spatial strategies instead of the GPS would be helpful in lessening the deterioration of memory.
and here:
quote:
Developing a cognitive map may take longer, but it's worth the investment.
.

Bottom line: It is irresponsible to scare people into thinking they may develop Alzheimer's just because they're using GPS units.


Incredible distortions by DailyTech
By CSMR on 11/16/2010 1:27:24 PM , Rating: 5
The study is fine. It's the unbelievably low standard of reporting of media like DailyTech that misrepresent the work that is the problem.

msnbc got it right:
"the studies compare different groups of people and don't show causality"
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40138522/ns/health-men...

DailyTech summary of the msnbc article:
"Study: GPS Units Cause Memory and Spatial Problems"

The idiots who have no idea what research is or how to find out reliable facts about the world, but who believe they naturally possess much greater understanding than scientists, are the other problem.




So...
By sviola on 11/16/2010 12:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
So, I have a few questions:

1 - how long did this study take (I don't think that a 4-year long study is enough to prove the causality between using a gps and becoming afflicted by alzheimer's disease)?

2 -Were the subjects of the study moer suitable to having alzheimer's disease (family cases, diabeties, etc)?

3 - Did any of the subjects became affected by the disease?

Don't know, but sounds to me like a flawed study, like saying that using a computer for doing math calculations will make you get alzheimer's disease with time.




RE: So...
By supermitsuba on 11/16/2010 1:05:57 PM , Rating: 2
Only if it is calc 3. Draw all those 3D models by hand.

But that does raise an interesting point, in that, your brain is like a muscle, if you dont do one exercise, then you should make it up with different exercises.


By this studies logic
By FITCamaro on 11/16/2010 2:15:17 PM , Rating: 2
We should all just play MMOs and have to memorize how to run around the world as the same parts of the brain for navigation are used.

I don't know about some of you, but when I use GPS, I memorize the route as I take it. If its a complicated route sure I may not remember it right away. But even without GPS this is the case. It wasn't until I learned to drive that I really started knowing how to get around. Because until then it isn't something you worry about. I knew the general way to get to friends houses and that was about it.

I have a buddy who lives in DC and about the only thing I need GPS for is to remind me of the exit to get off at since its just a straight trip up 95 to get there. Now when I was in the middle of the desert with a buddy going to the Grand Canyon at night, we relied on GPS and it was no different in terms of figuring out how to get there, just the planning was done for us. Could I go back? Not really but it won't be an issue for years since I don't live on the West Coast.




RE: By this studies logic
By Nfarce on 11/16/2010 4:28:32 PM , Rating: 2
The night before a trip - and after I program my GPS - I'll pull up Google or Yahoo map and plug the route it. This way I at least have a mental image of what to expect along the route. Of course as a backup I always keep a road atlas in every vehicle at all times.


By Nfarce on 11/16/2010 4:12:35 PM , Rating: 2
GPS signals burning our brains up. But then I read some nonsense article that not using the cognitive parts of our brains while driving can induce Alzheimer's (which can be a hereditary disease by nature the last I checked).

Anyway, so where does this leave commercial airline pilots who use tiny LCD cockpit displays (ADI & HSI) coupled with GPS and INS for map navigation and mostly have the aircraft on autopilot?

Geeze I guess I'd better warn my airline pilot friends about this so-called study. (I've got $100 that says this is yet another mindless "stimulus" bill funding - no pun intended there).




By Performance Fanboi on 11/16/2010 7:41:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I've got $100 that says this is yet another mindless "stimulus" bill funding


You'd lose the c-note. Not a whole lot of stimulus money going to Canadian institutions.


what?!
By Etern205 on 11/16/2010 4:46:16 PM , Rating: 3
So now we have a "hippopotamus" in our heads telling us where we are? :P




By jmunjr on 11/17/2010 3:07:27 AM , Rating: 2
I postponed getting a cell phone until 2003 at age 34 because I knew if I did I would stop permanently memorizing phone numbers. Yes I really did know dozens or more of phone numbers by heart. Guess what? Got a cell phone and not long after I stopped memorizing #s. That pisses me off.

I also predicted GPS would do us no favors in remembering how to get from point A to point B, and indeed the problem is as bad or worse than I expected. Fortunately I don't need a GPS to live normally.

People laugh at me for having a Motorola V195 basic clamshell phone, well until I throw it 10 feet in the air and let it smack against the concrete without a scratch and then ask them if I can do the same with their smart phone from only 4 feet, and even less so when I am able to retrieve a business' phone # quicker then they can by texting Google via SMS while they try to do it using their browser...

Anyway, not having a cell phone is a difficult option to live with but any of us can choose to not use GPS and still function without ridicule. The problem though is few will be able to actually give directions in the future..




Bogus....
By rdhood on 11/17/2010 8:27:06 AM , Rating: 2
On the face of it, this looks bogus. From my experience, people who are avid users of GPS do so either because 1) they can't navigate ... no matter what... any way or 2) they are driving in completely unfamiliar areas where no previous markers and hippocampus takes place. IN BOTH cases, GPS is neither enhancing nor impeding natural navigation processes.

I don't now ANYONE who uses their GPS to navigate to places with which they are thoroughly familiar, or continue to use a GPS after they have become familiar with a place. After that point, they are highly annoying and useless. So maybe this danger does exist. But it would be rare and afflict a trivial number of people




By Hafgrim on 11/19/2010 5:13:40 PM , Rating: 2
People with memory problems and the weakness with directions already have the problem, THAT IS WHY THEY PURCHASED A GPS IN THE FIRST PLACE!

It is not fair to say the GPS caused the problem. lol. They bought the GPS because they already had the problem and the GPS helps them. Its like saying you shouldnt use your clothing washing mashine because it makes your life to easy & weakens your fingers by not hand washing. lol!

Or the roofers shouldnt use nail guns because it weakens their forearms & cardio-vascular system. ROFL!

People gravitate to the tool that helps them do the job faster and if directions are a weakness for you then a GPS will help you get there faster. One does not cause the other it only helps you arrive sooner. You already have the problem.

Oh and one last one funny one for computer nerds, we shouldnt use google either because you know its to easy and we should all walk to the library to research. You know because it is google is weakening our minds.. =P

=)




duh
By danobrega on 11/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: duh
By KC7SWH on 11/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: duh
By teldar on 11/16/2010 4:07:49 PM , Rating: 2
Are you Canadian? Do you know where the study was performed?


RE: duh
By Nightbird321 on 11/16/2010 4:48:51 PM , Rating: 5
Another study by sociologists and not statisticians. Correlation does not prove causation.

This is as if they did a study showing wearing glasses being correlated with poor eyesight and claiming glasses caused poor eyesight.


RE: duh
By Believer on 11/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: duh
By Iaiken on 11/16/2010 12:48:54 PM , Rating: 5
I think it's a valid study.

There was another supporting study done where people who used GPS's excessively were unable to give directions to other people on how to follow the same route they just took. Nor were they able to repeat the trip themselves without a GPS or a map. Meanwhile, the people who navigated on their own by following a map, were then able to give accurate directions to others, sometimes they could even draw a map from memory and almost all of them could repeat the route flawlessly without the map.

Besides the Alzheimer, I think this study demonstrates just how little we still know about how we function and just how much more there is to find out.


RE: duh
By nafhan on 11/16/2010 1:06:44 PM , Rating: 5
It would be much mroe reasonable to say that not using a GPS exercises your brain rather.
Really, it seems like the conclusion could also be drawn that driving the same route every day also causes alzheimers. However, that's not quite as sensational, so we'll just leave it alone.


RE: duh
By nafhan on 11/16/2010 1:09:03 PM , Rating: 2
I guess I need to stop using my GPS...
First sentence should have been:
It would be much more reasonable to say that not using a GPS exercises your brain.


RE: duh
By The Raven on 11/16/2010 1:57:04 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I guess I need to stop using my GPS...


Or spellcheck for that matter. And spreadsheets. Bring back long division!!! Let's just get rid of PCs and calculators altogether?

Personally I'd prefer a higher quality of life than qty.

I think that the study doesn't factor in that your would-be copilot can now do sudoku which is better (I have read stuff from the same type of scientists that says as much anyway) at reducing the risk of alzheimer's for them than finding directions on a map while they sing along to Lady GagMe.


RE: duh
By kerpwnt on 11/16/2010 2:05:34 PM , Rating: 2
To be safe, I think we should do it all at once! Something like this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR1iUmq6ilA

I'm kidding btw...


RE: duh
By Spivonious on 11/16/2010 2:38:30 PM , Rating: 1
I would love to remove calculators and computers from schools. There is no reason to have them. The math teachers just have to make the problems a little easier for mental arithmetic. How do you think they did things before the 80s when calculators became affordable? It pains me when I encounter a cashier that can't recalculate the change in his/her head if I give him/her some extra change after he/she has entered it into the register. I even had one tell me "it's too late".

Spreadsheets are a nice tool. Computerized spreadsheets are even better.

Spellcheckers on their own can be a good thing (but definitely not a replacement for proof-reading). Auto-replace spellcheckers are the reason that no one can spell.

While at times it would be nice to have a GPS, if only for the detailed local maps, I tend to look over a map before leaving on long trips and mentally note landmarks I'll pass.


RE: duh
By The Raven on 11/18/2010 11:21:23 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I would love to remove calculators and computers from schools. There is no reason to have them. The math teachers just have to make the problems a little easier for mental arithmetic. How do you think they did things before the 80s when calculators became affordable? It pains me when I encounter a cashier that can't recalculate the change in his/her head if I give him/her some extra change after he/she has entered it into the register. I even had one tell me "it's too late".

Ok, you done gone too far. I hear this stuff from my mom, and I swear she flaunts her mental math skill about me all the time. It is really irritating. Well one mistake and it is worth crap. I mean let me tell my boss that I am using mental math instead of a calculator and I'll get fired. About six month ago we were doing price negotiations with a customer and while most of my coworkers were going through basic calculations in their heads and with calcs, I was able to discover and focus on the fact that we had a flaw in our formula. What do you think is more important? To know how to create a accurate formula or memorizing your times tables? I am horrible at mental math (IMO) but was always at the top of my class throughout college. Yes I can calculate things in my head, but it is not my strong point and I consider that almost useless in this day and age. Yes it is at times nice to have around, but so is knowing the State Capitals.

And as far as the registers go... just know that your prices are lower because of it. That's what gets me through it. (Same goes for the ones who don't "speak English" or "know anything about what they are selling".)
I mean as long as they understand that 4*George Washingtons=George Washington, you should be ok.

And I worked register a lot in various jobs. And I would say that it is not because their schooling is lacking. I think it is sufficient for those jobs. But it is because they come across that situation rarely in this day and age and it get them flustered and affects their ability to do what normally would be child's play. I mean I would get flustered too, but could handle those kind of things though it may have taken me some time. Then if you get some guy complaining that you aren't lightining fast at what isn't a typical function of your job makes it even worse.

And spellcheck is a great thing only if, as you said, it is not used as a replacement for proofreading.
And there are some places where people just don't/practically can't take the tiem to proofread...
http://www.damnyouautocorrect.com
I'm glad I don't text or IM lol!


RE: duh
By kerpwnt on 11/16/2010 1:53:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
that's not quite as sensational

Exactly!

This article sites links to an msnbc article as a source(which wasn't nearly as bad)... so it's at least twice removed from the actual scientific work? I really feel like I'm only dogging the writers here anymore, but it really disheartens me to see scientific research sensationalized to to irrelevance. News articles should be no more accusatory than the scientific papers they're supposed to be based on. For example, the title of this article should say "Study: GPS Units may increase risk of Memory and Spatial Problems." Perhaps, to keep some level of sensationalism, It could even use the words "linked to." Maybe then, the comments section wouldn't be full of statements like "who funds these retards" or "dumb 'scientists' don't understand the difference between correlation and causation."


RE: duh
By Drag0nFire on 11/16/2010 2:16:17 PM , Rating: 4
Correlation does not imply causation. There could in fact be many other reasons why frequent users of GPS tend to have different brain characteristics that have nothing to do with the GPS...

But I suppose that's more related to the way it has been reported than it is to the study itself (see title).


RE: duh
By 91TTZ on 11/16/2010 2:21:53 PM , Rating: 2
I Was thinking the same thing. It could be that people who are already bad with direction are more likely to use a GPS than people who are good with directions.


RE: duh
By Drag0nFire on 11/17/2010 1:37:25 PM , Rating: 2
Really, title should be "GPS use correlated with spatial memory problems". But it doesn't get as many page views that way...


RE: duh
By JKflipflop98 on 11/16/2010 4:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, and another independent study found that people who are eating ice cream have far fewer skiing accidents than those that don't.

You think maybe people that buy GPS units have a smaller active hippocampus section of the brain to start with? I.E., they bought the GPS because they get lost easily anyways?

Nahhh. . . looking at the GPS has to be causing some sort of brain dysfunction.


RE: duh
By inperfectdarkness on 11/16/2010 5:18:10 PM , Rating: 2
i'd like to see a tie-in about FPS games. i consider myself to have excellent spatial memory, due to the large amount of FPS's i play.


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