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GPS and your brain

October 8th, 2009

This is a little off-topic for this blog, but I just wanted to mention a major feature I wrote that will appear in the November issue of The Walrus, and is now available online. It’s about how using GPS navigation systems can affect the structure of your brain. It was a really interesting piece to report — probably the most interesting thing I’ve done in a few years — so I wanted to share the results.

[UPDATE 10/19: The New York Times picked out this article as its “Idea of the Day” in their “Must Reads From the Week in Review Staff” section.]

  1. October 9th, 2009 at 23:02 | #1

    Fascinating article, Alex. I developed a new appreciation for human navigation after running a couple of orienteering races with Wil Smith, the Canadian and North American orienteering champion. He and his brother Mike both have GPS systems built into their heads — it’s uncanny.

  2. alex
    October 14th, 2009 at 00:50 | #2

    Yeah, I remember Wil from when we were at McGill — crazy stuff. I wonder how much of that is practice and how much is a natural talent? I know when I run, I definitely don’t have any “cognitive map” that tells me where I am. It’s all landmark-based, so I usually do out-and-back routes rather than trying to figure out loops in unfamiliar places.

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