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This is your brain on GPS: (Hippowhat)?
Researchers at McGill University are suggesting that relying on your GPS too much can damage your hippocampus.
The hippocampus is the region of the brain, largely responsible for long-term memory, and spatial navigation. It is usually one of the first parts of the brain damaged in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, which explains why symptoms of the disease include memory problems and disorientation.
Like most parts of the body, McGill researchers are suggesting that if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Functional MRI scans were performed on older adults, and results were divided between GPS and non-GPS users. The subjects accustomed to navigating by spatial means were found to have higher activity and a greater volume of gray matter in the hippocampus than those used to relying on GPS.
These non-GPS users also performed better on a standardized test used in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, which often precedes the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
University College London researchers performed similar tests a decade ago on taxi drivers, and determined that their hippocampus grew larger as the drivers spent more time in the job.
The McGill Neuroscientists believe that using spatial memory regularly may keep the hippocampus fit, and could help minimize risk of later impairment. They further hypothesize that future studies may show a link between reduced hippocampus activity and earlier onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Perhaps the next time you go someplace you have already been—you will rely a bit more on your memory, and only turn your GPS on if you feel you can’t get there from here.
I embark on a six-month exchange to University College London in January next year. To document my experience I’ll be using this account as a photojournalism blog.
All the while I’ll keep posting random thoughts, pictures, songs, videos and quotes that inspire further thought in my “Look, read, listen. Think” blog.
I got an unconditional offer from UCL.
This is genuinely the most unexpected offer I’ve received. Tomorrow would have been exactly a month since my interview, which I thought I had done disastrously in.
But they actually want me. This is crazy.
And I have no idea whatsoever how I’m going to choose between St. Andrews and UCL now.
Ack. I’m so happy.
University College London
(Primrose Hill from Summer 2012)
Two days ago, I got accepted into the English program at University College London for the Academic Year 2013-2014 as part of my college career at Washington University in St. Louis. While I have changed my plans to just the Spring Semester, I cannot wait for the enriching experience that awaits culturally, socially and academically. Unfortunately, whenever I have visited in the past I have either gotten the total tourist experience or an experience so atypical it felt like I was dreaming. I know UCL will provide the grittiness I desire and maybe, just maybe will make me pick up some more britishisms!
Below is my Statement of Purpose I wrote as part of my application:
Just like every child, I wanted to fly. Virginia, John, and I are triplets, and upon our first glimpse inside the realm of Peter Pan’s magical journey to Never Land, we too longed for the chance to transcend the unyielding constraints of gravity. Getting into our positions on top of our nightstands, we braced ourselves with giddy excitement and clutched the pinches of “pixie dust” we had collected from the family saltshaker. With our magical granules clasped in between our fingers we hopped into the air only to have the euphoria of flight last mere milliseconds before we plummeted to the mattress.
While John and I began to cope with the realization of Never Land being pure fiction, autism left Virginia blissfully naïve. Suffering from an extensive neurological impediment affecting everything from social correspondence to daily functioning, Virginia, who matures physically, continues to have the emotional and intellectual capacity of a child.
From my first attempt at flight with my siblings, I quickly learned that certain realities of life would inevitably bring me down. I hope, however, that I will continue to struggle, with myself, with others and with knowledge, because it is from conflict that people grow. I know that my year abroad at University College London, a university that represents and embraces over 140 nationalities around the globe, will provide me this unparalleled exposure to individuals and cultures dissimilar from me. The exceptional metropolitan location of University College London and connection with the greater London community will allow my beliefs, opinions and even morals to be challenged even further.
In addition to the social and cultural opportunities afforded at University College London, the world-class education I will receive is awe-inspiring. As the first university in England to offer English as a degree subject, University College London is a trailblazer within the field. I am especially fascinated by University College London’s thriving research, particularly the sub-study of “Life Stories” detailing how lives become canonized and turned into popular myths. Furthermore, the physical location of University College London in Bloomsbury, the famous literary neighborhood home to the Bloomsbury Group and the British Library, will allow my studies to transcend the classroom and reflect the historical richness around me. For example, the course, “Literary Representation and History of Homosexuality”, will take a new discourse, than had I learned it in America, because liberal approaches to sexuality is a main tenant of the Bloomsbury Group. I know that if I am offered the opportunity to study at the Department of English Language and Literature at University College London, I will be able to negotiate and approach literature, both theoretically and thematically, like never before.
Without my sister’s diagnosis, my intellectual curiosity and my desire to grow into awell-rounded individual would not be so vigorous. Unlike the world of Never Land, the world of Autism is real and has taught me to appreciate my ability to experience all that I can and continue to challenge the unknown, even if I will not ever be able to fly.