Tell Your GPS to Get Lost! (for Your Brain’s Sake)

  • Turn off the robot
  • Find out about the taxi driver advantage
  • Map it out


Dear Reader,

In the past four years, I’ve found myself calling several different cities home.

With each of these moves, I had to find my way to work, school, the grocery, etc. And just like millions of people, I relied on my Global Positioning System, or GPS, to do all the legwork.

You know the drill — just punch in an address into your smartphone or other GPS device and suddenly a magical woman robot voice (I call her Karen) provides you with step-by-step instructions to your destination.

But the problem was I wasn’t just using my GPS to assist in my long multistate moves; I began relying on it for everyday transit.

And it was all too easy — robot Karen would usually give me good directions, and eventually, my destination was on the right.

So what’s the problem? Seems like an easy and convenient way to get around a new area. It was — except I would arrive at my destination without any real recollection of how I got there or the foggiest notion of where I was in the city.

After this happened a few times in each new city, I had to wonder– were all these robot directions wrecking my natural navigational skills?

Granted, I realize using a GPS is a logical way of getting to know a new area without spending your days wandering about or struggling to get to your destination. But I started to feel like it might negate my brain’s natural aptitude for direction.

For instance, instead of bookmarking landmarks, spotting road patterns, or assembling a picture of my surroundings, I was blankly staring at a tiny screen waiting for my next instruction or having a one-way conversation with robot Karen!

Meaning I never really learned my route to work or the grocery store and likely just missed being the cause of several car accidents.

As it turns out, my hunch was right — GPS directions aren’t doing me or anyone else any brain favors.

Today, we will navigate the effects of GPS on your brain and what you can do to regain your sense of direction.

--Going off the Grid

Two separate rat studies help explain how sense of direction works in the brain. The results show that navigational skills are both learned and innate.

Obviously, rats and humans are different animals. However, most mammals have a part of the brain, the hippocampus, that is in charge of both spatial memory and navigation functions. Since navigation is hard-wired in the rats, it’s probably the same story for humans too.

The hard-wiring consists of three different types of course-plotting cells — grid cells, place cells, and head direction cells. These cells work in conjunction to help you sequence your internal GPS when you’re just a baby.

In the rat studies, researchers tracked the neural activity of infant rats. Through this, they found that even newborn rats have fully matured direction cells, specifically head direction cells that help you determine which direction you’re facing. This means the rats have a built-in GPS system from day one. 1,2

Place cells help us chart mental maps, while grid cells are responsible for helping us navigate new territory. The way these cells interact may be the reason why some people have a better sense of direction than others — but they are vital to all of us.

When you use a GPS, you may be reducing the activity of your directional cells, thus experiencing a sort of atrophy in your hippocampus that can result in fuzzy mental maps and reductions of your spatial awareness.

In fact, as a 2006 study found, those who have to depend on mental mapping in their daily work may have more gray matter in the hippocampus than those who don’t. The study discovered that London taxi drivers who spent a good part of their lives deciphering the city’s complicated roadways had larger amounts of gray matter in the hippocampus than those who didn’t drive cabs – giving them a directional advantage.3

These results prove that the more mental mapping we do, the sharper our navigational skills may become.

--Get Lost!

To further this point, a 2005 study done by the University of Nottingham in England had participants either follow step-by-step directions, like those of a GPS, or a traditional map and asked them to drive to a specific destination.

Once the task was complete, the participants sketched a map of their route and answered questions about landmarks they saw en route. Those who followed the step-by-step instructions not only drew inaccurate maps, they also didn’t remember places they had driven by more than once. 4

The main reason for this spatial deficit — you’re no longer getting lost. Since you don’t have to worry about being misplaced or having to endure the task of recalculating your location, you have the leisure of mostly ignoring what is around you.

Nottingham researcher Gary Burnett explains further, “When you make mistakes, not only does that mean your exposure to the environment is longer — and that helps you learn more things — you also become more engaged in the task. When you miss a turn, you become more focused on analyzing what just happened and where you are and what you need to do.”

Put simply, you need to get lost occasionally in order to find your way.

I am not suggesting your toss your GPS in the garbage — let’s face it, they can be lifesavers— but perhaps refrain from using it when you are going somewhere you frequent but haven’t quite mastered the route yet.

Or pick up a map. Even when you are traveling long distances, you can use a map for the long portions and turn your GPS on when you get closer to your final destination.

Even if you get lost, at least you’ll remember it.

Live well,

Natalie Moore
Managing editor, Living Well Daily

P.S. Again, I urge you to take action and sign up for our FREE event. It may be the most important thing you do for your health this year, and it’s happening tonight! We are going live at 7:00 P.M. EDT, but if you can’t make it, don’t worry, the recording will be available until midnight on April 14.

This event will help you to discover the root causes of America’s growing brain health problem. Plus, it will lay out a simple and easy plan to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Ed. Note: Please send your feedback: – and click here to like us on Facebook.


[1] Development of the spatial representation system in the rat.

[2] Development of the Hippocampal Cognitive Map in Preweanling Rats

[3] Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers

[4]  The Effect of Vehicle Navigation Systems on the Formation of Cognitive Maps

Natalie Moore

Written By Natalie Moore

Natalie Moore is a dedicated health researcher with a passion for finding healthy, natural, and science-based solutions. After a decade of direct healthcare experience in western and natural medicine, she was involved in public health research before joining Living Well Daily.

View More Free Articles

POWERFUL Herbal "Antidote" DEFIES Aging

Ginseng is the very definition of an “ancient cure.” In fact, you can find the potent herb mentioned in 2,000-year-old Chinese books as a treatment for a wide range of illnesses. But what’s made ginseng stand the test of time… remaining nearly as popular TODAY as it was hundreds of years ago… is its apparent...

Read This

Alarming Heartburn Side Effect REVEALED

After every meal, millions of Americans pop a pill. Folks are convinced that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec or Nexium are necessary to head off heartburn. But what these drugs REALLY do is liable to shock you. To begin with, they block your body from properly digesting your food. But that’s just the...

Read This

Do this TODAY for Less Pain TOMORROW

Once you pass a certain age, the medical ads start haunting you. You find them shoved into your mailbox. Then they show up in your email. And you even start spotting them hovering in the corner of every website you visit. It seems EVERYONE is trying to sell you a drug to relieve your arthritis...

Read This

10 Minute Memory Trick [IMMEDIATE Results!]

Our healthcare system has a fatal flaw. It’s set up to react to illness, NOT prevent it. So, doctors are stuck in a losing game of whack-a-mole. They spend all their energy and time scrambling to knock down symptoms. That means prescriptions for preventative care are virtually nonexistent. And that’s certainly the case with memory...

Read This

Unexpected Bone Broth Benefits

I was in a small grocery store in the mountains recently, and noticed that they had bone broth for sale. I thought, “Wow, we’ve come a long way!” And that’s a good thing. Here’s why… Bone broth used to be nearly impossible to find in modern-day grocery stores. But to eke out as much nutritional...

Read This

Garden Hack Boosts Cognitive Function

You can’t turn on the T.V. or flip through a newspaper anymore without seeing a new drug breakthrough they claim will FINALLY rid humanity of our aging brain issues. These medicines hit the market promising miracles. But it typically isn’t long before we start seeing their dark side. Meanwhile, a safe, natural remedy to boost...

Read This

Mailbag: STAY Healthy in a Senior Home

“We’ve unfortunately had to put my 90-year-old mother in a home. I’m so worried she’s going to get sick (especially with COVID still around). Is there anything I can do to help protect her?” Sam from Prattville, AL Hi Sam, Your situation sounds familiar. My father is in a senior living center with about 300...

Read This

Better Memory with this "Nose" Trick (226% BOOST!?)

You have five primary senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. (The sixth one doesn’t count. Only your Aunt Mable claims that one.) But you’ve likely noticed that only your sight and hearing get tested when you visit the doctor. Your senses of taste, touch, and smell are almost entirely ignored. And ignoring one of...

Read This

This Drink Could DESTROY Your Liver [ALERT]

People often ask me what’s the WORST thing for their health. Cigarettes, alcohol, and illegal drugs often pop to mind. But everyone KNOWS those things are bad. But there’s in fact, a popular “harmless” daily habit that has HUGE health consequences. And it can be every bit as bad as a cigarette or booze habit....

Read This

Down a Daily Mug of Alzheimer's Prevention

I have a foolproof plan for maintaining clear thinking and a steel-trap memory as you age. Ready to hear it? Stop plaques and tangles from building up in your brain. Unfortunately, it’s the perfect example of “Easy to say, but not so easy to do.” Or, it was until NOW. Because scientists have discovered a...

Read This