- ROSS LYDALL
- 5 days ago
It is the insult aimed at minicab drivers seen pulling unexpected manoeuvres as they rely on a satnav: you don’t know where you’re going.
Now London researchers have found that motorists who rely on computer navigation devices do in fact “switch off” part of their brain in the process.
They detected spikes of activity in two key areas of the brain, the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, when the volunteers were forced to navigate for themselves.
A lorry driver ignored warning signs and followed his satnav down a tiny street in Colchester. (eastnews.co.uk )
But where they relied on instructions from a satnav, no activity above normal levels was detected.
The findings support earlier UCL research showing that the hippocampi of London black taxi drivers expand as they learn “The Knowledge”.
The new study suggests drivers who follow satnav directions do not engage their hippocampus — effectively limiting learning the street network.
A householder is desperately pleading with authorities to take action after a string of sat nav blunders which have caused over £50,000 of damage to her property. (Jason Bryant/Apex)
This is likely to intensify the battle between black cab drivers — who have to pass Transport for London’s Knowledge test to earn their licence — and the growing army of Uber and minicab drivers who rely on satnavs.
Dozens of drivers have been stranded in the ford at Luckington in Wiltshire after following satellite navigation. (SWNS)
Dr Hugo Spiers, of UCL’s experimental psychology department, said: “Entering a junction such as Seven Dials, where seven streets meet, would enhance activity in the hippocampus. If you are having a hard time navigating the mass of streets in a city, you are likely putting high demands on your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.
“When we have technology telling us where to go, however, these parts of the brain simply don’t respond to the street network. Our brain has switched off its interest in the streets around us.”