There was an article in last week’s Washington Post titled, “Ditch the GPS. It’s ruining your brain.” The journalist who wrote the piece, M. R. O’Connor, quoted various experts and scientific studies, the details of which are too numerous to list here. But the main point of the article might be summarized by this statement: “…neuroscientists can now see that brain behavior changes when people rely on turn-by-turn directions.” Specifically, the hippocampus is an extremely important part of the brain that is involved in many functions, including spatial orientation. When someone is navigating on their own, or even when lost, the hippocampus is stimulated and grows what is known as “gray-matter.” The concern is that when we rely on GPS-type instructions, the hippocampus is less stimulated and is susceptible to atrophy, leading to all sorts of dire neurological consequences.
I now understand what is happening to my brain. As a typical male, I am deficient in many ways, but especially in my capacity to navigate accurately on my own. For that reason, I have become especially dependent on GPS-type instructions. Despite my ongoing, hot-tempered arguments with Siri, who is anything but flawless, I nevertheless return again and again begging for directions. Like a co-dependent lover, I seem unable to shake the relationship and strike out on my own. I now know that this is not only causing me emotional turmoil, but it is actually shrinking my brain! I knew something was going on, but I just didn’t recognize that the problem is centered in my hippocampus, and that it is growing weaker and weaker with each irritating instruction from Siri.
Let me be clear about the fact that I am hopeful. Scientists say that being lost is actually good because it stimulates the hippocampus, re-growing gray matter. Without Siri, I am both gifted and experienced in the art of getting lost. If I can somehow break my heart-wrenching dependency on Siri, I expect to be growing vast amounts of gray-matter in the near future. And the result is predictable. I may get lost, but I won’t be disoriented. I will have a finely-tuned hippocampus alerting me to my dire situation. I will probably just call Siri.
Rev. Don Underwood