Replacing Google Maps With Traditional Maps Could Help Fight Dementia

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Some people out there give up on certain navigation software, be it Google Maps, Waze, or Apple Maps, for the sole reason they’re no longer working properly.
But researchers at McMaster University have recently discovered a new reason to stop using sat-nav and go back to traditional maps. By training the brain to read the information provided by the map and then processing the geospatial information, human beings might be able to prevent or at least slow down the debut of certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

To understand how keeping the brain trained would help prevent the cognitive decline linked with dementia, one just has to think about the way our ancient ancestors used to do activities that have gradually been replaced by modern solutions. Hunting and gathering, the study explains, relied not only on physical capabilities but also on cognitive processes that involved one’s ability to anticipate paths and find the fastest way to catch the chased animal.

This way, the brain created new neural pathways that helped develop abilities eventually proving to be critical for the prevention of certain diseases.

It’s not difficult to see how the modern world has changed the way we live our lives. Geospatial orientation and navigation rely nearly entirely on software that provides us with the information we need to find a certain point on the map. As a result, the brain functions that were required many years ago are no longer being used today.

In the case of Alzheimer’s, one of the early symptoms is losing the ability to figure out a way to go somewhere, and this is how researchers ended up determining that keeping the brain trained in this regard could help at least slow down the evolution of the disease.

A study that analyzed the spatial navigation and memory abilities of people who typically take part in orienteering revealed that the neural architecture specifically aimed at such activities was significantly more developed. As a result, the researchers say, giving up on sat-nav and sticking with traditional maps, which typically involve finding where you are, processing the location information, and then previewing the environment to anticipate the route, could significantly help in the fight against certain diseases.

The researchers also recommend using a new route for running, walking, or biking as often as possible could help as well, as improving the navigation skill could have a major impact on the health of the brain in the long term. The conclusion is as simple as it could be: the more you use the brain for spatial processing and memory, the more you help it prevent the debut of Alzheimer’s, as the neural pathways that would fight one of the most common early symptoms would already be developed.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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