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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: duh
By The Raven on 11/18/2010 11:21:23 AM , Rating: 2
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...
I'm glad I don't text or IM lol!

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