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!