SatNavs are dangerous, they turn off the brain

British research has shown that accidents and errors in trajectory are higher in subjects who use satnavs in the car

Driving following the directions of a satnav can be very dangerous. And no, we're not talking about out-of-date maps leading you into the middle of nowhere or rear-end collisions caused by constantly looking at the screen. According to a British research, the navigator turns off certain parts of the brain.

The research started from a statistic, people tend to make wrong turns, cause accidents or go off the road more when they use the navigator than when they drive without the aid of this technology. Scientists selected 24 volunteers to drive on the streets of Soho, London, while performing brain scans on them. Half of the volunteers drove without the aid of a navigator while the other half moved around the center of the UK capital using satellite tracking. The final results are staggering.

The Research

The study detected brain activity in two distinct areas of the brain, the hippocampus and the frontal cortex. The former guides us in memory and navigation, while the latter underlies decision-making and planning. In the subjects who drove from memory and without an electronic aid, brain activity was very intense throughout the trip. The brain always stimulated the driver's attention on the road, especially when there were multiple options to be taken to reach the final destination. In practice, a traffic circle or a large intersection spiked activity while one-way streets stimulated the brain less. Volunteers who drove on the same roads with the help of the navigator did not record any brain activity in the two areas analyzed. The brain focuses only on following the directions received. An error can cost dearly because the frontal cortex, poorly stimulated, is less ready for the unexpected. Moreover, the hippocampus, being inactive or almost inactive, does not allow to memorize in a correct way the roads covered for a future trip.