I read an article from the Dallas Morning News on December 6th titled “Global Impositioning Systems; Is GPS technology actually harming our sense of direction?” by Alex Hutchinson. While I’ve often heard of people having no sense of direction, and have met a few that can get lost driving to the grocery store, I didn’t know it was a studied neurological phenomenon. It is, and it’s called either Developmental Topographical Disorientation or Topographagnosia.
After reading the article I looked online and found several sites devoted to researching and documenting Topographagnosia, most notably gettinglost.ca. From their site:
We are a cognitive neuroscience research laboratory dedicated to investigate the individuals’ inability to orient in an environment, a condition that is commonly known as topographical disorientation or topographagnosia… If you get lost easily and want to find out more about your lack of orientation skills, please explore this website. You will find useful information about how people orient and the research that we have done so far on this topic. Also, you may want to join our forum and meet other people with orientation issues similar to yours. Please visit our page “Test Your Skills” in order to have a complete assessment of your orientation skills. Your contribution is fundamental to our discovering more about this problem and learning how we can help everyone to find their way.
Having taught navigation professionally, both modern and barehand, for over ten years, I’ve noticed a greater reliance on gadgets with the passage of time. While I’ve thought about the reliance on navigational technology as a crutch, I didn’t know it could have a negative impact on spatail awareness and the ability to navigate. But after reading the article and more on the web, they make a convincing case. The quote that most stands out from the article is ”
Our brains determine how we navigate, but our navigational efforts also shape our brains.”