GPS and your brain


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


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.]

2 Replies to “GPS and your brain”

  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. 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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