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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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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.


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