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1. To Hippocampally Challenged GPS Worshippers Everywhere

Aug 20, 2011

Welcome to the first post of this site.  It seems odd that the first thing I'm sharing about myself is my poor sense of direction. I blame it on my brain's natural navigation circuits.  If the spatial functions of your hippocampus are as weak as mine, you probably felt grateful when the car GPS came along.

The people I know with a GPS are either:
  1. "GPS worshipers".  They give over nearly all navigational control to the device.  Turn left at the corner near my apartment, even though I know that going straight would be just as good?  Sure, if you say so!  These are my people.  Our hippocampi (one on each side of the brain) are probably the size of a pair of raisins.
  2. "Don't-tell-me-which-way-to-turn" types.  They defiantly ignore the GPS's commands, and get a perverse thrill from hearing the word "Recalculating".   They take pride in their sense of direction and navigational abilities.  If this is you, don't get excited big shot.  Your normal-sized hippocampi are each about the size of a large grape.  
Human brain imaging studies show high amounts of hippocampal activation when people correctly navigate in a virtual navigation task.  Taxi drivers tend to have a large hippocampus in the right hemisphere of the brain.  It could be that the large hippocampus led these individuals into the profession. However, the volume of the hippocampus is related to the number of years they've been driving a cab.  This suggests that the experience of navigating increases the size of the hippocampus. 

The big question is whether the taxi drivers would have increased their hippocampal size if they'd been using a GPS to navigate for them? The studies were done before the car GPS hit the scene. With my GPS dependence, will my hippocampus get even smaller ?  Will it disappear altogether? Ahhh, so what if it does? Screw it.  I love my GPS.