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Using GPS navigation to get to your destination may 'switch off' parts of the brain that would otherwise be used to simulate different routes, a study has found.

The study by researchers at University College London(UCL) in the UK involved 24 volunteers navigating a simulation in central London while undergoing brain scans. They investigated activity in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and navigation, and the prefrontal cortex which is involved in planning and decision-making.

They also mapped the labyrinth of London's streets to understand how these brain regions reacted to them. When volunteers navigated manually , their hippocampus and prefrontal cortex had spikes of activity when volunteers entered new streets. This brain activity was greater when the number of options to choose from increased, but no additional activity was detected when people followed satnav instructions. "If you are having a hard time navigating the mass of streets in a city, you are likely putting high demands on your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex," said Hugo Spiers from UCL.

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