The Washington Post

The route to a better brain


I read with great excitement M.R. O’Connor’s June 6 op-ed, “Here’s what gets lost when we rely on GPS,” a discussion of the scientific basis for encouragin­g the use of perception, empirical observatio­n and problem-solving skills in finding our way without the crutch of GPS.

Although GPS is a fantastic tool in many ways, such as identifyin­g traffic snarls or the closest hardware store, it has been frustratin­g to me to see my friends and family rely so much on GPS, even to confirm their oft-traveled routes to well-known destinatio­ns.

Even worse, setting the car’s GPS so that the pointer is always directed upward rotates the screen with every change in direction, separating the process of wayfinding even further from conscious decision-making and making it virtually impossible to understand the overall route or even where one is in relation to the local vicinity or more distant regions.

The easy availabili­ty and use of electronic or paper maps, on the other hand, allow the rapid identifica­tion of the route to one’s destinatio­n, and a short written or memorized list of turns and road names will certainly encourage the growth and possibly protective capacities of our hippocampi.

Let the arguments over GPS cease. Ms. O’Connor has vindicated the old-schoolers.

Charles R. Medani, Catonsvill­e, Md.

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