Jeff Ryan, Author & Speaker

This is your brain on GPS

Talk about mind boggling.

In her new book, Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World, author M.R. O’Connor makes the case that over-reliance on GPS can cause an entire region of our brain known as the hippocampus to shut off. Why is this important? The short-term ramifications are that we lose our sense of spacial orientation. In other words, allowing GPS to take over makes us completely lose our sense of where we are in the world in relation to our immediate surroundings and severely hampers our ability to connect with nature at all.

Even scarier is the author’s finding that atrophy of the hippocampus is associated with depression, dementia, impaired memory, Alzheimer’s Disease, and PTSD. 

On the flip side, we learn that practicing cognitive mapping skills increases the health of our hippocampus.

There have been numerous studies over the past few years extolling the mental and physical health benefits of hiking. Now we know that using a good old fashioned map, compass, guidebook and our own observational skills can be beneficial, too!

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Jeffrey H Ryan is an author, adventurer, photographer and historian. He has written several books about his outdoor exploits, his fascination with hiking trails and the people and places found just off the beaten path. His debut book, Appalachian Odyssey: A 28-year hike on America's trail was hailed by the former Executive Editor of National Geographic as "a classic of nature and travel writing" and set off a national tour (in a 1985 VW camper, no less). His books are known for weaving a deep appreciation for history into walks across contemporary landscapes that give readers the feeling they are hiking right alongside. When Jeff isn't trekking, chasing down a great story or spinning yarns from his keyboard, he enjoys sharing his adventures with audiences who love the outdoors. He spends much of his time in his beloved native state of Maine.

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