There was an article in the Feb. 5 issue of the New York Times about using GPS devices.  Julia Frankenstein  is a psychologist and begins the article by suggesting that folks probably ask themselves,  “What did we ever do before GPS?”   She suggests we stop using them for when  we do, we don’t work our brains.  She writes, “The psychologist Eleanor A. Maguire and her colleagues at University College London found that spatial experience actually changes brain structures.  As taxi drivers learned the spatial layout of London,… the areas of the brain integrating spatial memories – increased.”

 On many of my driving excursions, I use a GPS.  Since I have no spatial orientation at all, this helps me.  However, the way I learn new information is through “errorless learning.” ( Jan. 18, 2011) Prior to owning a GPS, I always wrote down directions and used them every time. I used them less and less until I felt confident.  Then I stopped using them completely. .  Every time I drive from the the doggie daycare to the Y, I use my GPS but yesterday I decided not to use it.  I got there just fine but I did have to pay attention to my surroundings instead of listening to a voice telling me where to turn. I was working the neurons in my brain which is what must be done to strengthen them.

This commentary reminded me to, as my husband says ,”be mindful of the tension between using compensatory strategies versus exercising our brains to learn new info.”  This is a tough balance for me especially with spatial orientation issues.  Prior to my TBI, my sense-of-direction was poor and  I was always lost.  However, the feeling is different now.  I become upset and enter into a trance-like state.  I’ve  learned to take a few deep breaths and stop to get myself together but it is a horrible feeling.  I almost always have written directions when I use the GPS.  However , this article reminded me that I need to push myself away from using the GPS.