The Loh Down On Science

Bad for your brain: hands-free cell-phone driving

Think talking hands free while driving isn’t dangerous?  Think again!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet Tom Schweizer from St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada.  He's been studying the neurology of left turns, the most mentally taxing of standard driving maneuvers.

Why?  Left turns require a lot of visual coordination: of on-coming traffic, where pedestrians are, and what lights say.  

And they may be downright dangerous while talking on a hands-free phone.   

How does Schweizer know?  He put volunteers into a driving simulator located inside a functional MRI machine.  Then he mapped how the brain reacts during real-time driving situations.  

Drivers made six undistracted left turns into traffic.  Then they made the same turns while answering a series of true/false questions.  That simulated using a hands-free phone.

During the talking turns, blood moved away from the brain's visual areas towards decision-making centers.  This compromises vision and awareness, making left turns much more difficult.

Particularly when done from inside an MRI machine.  But the point is, don’t talk and drive!  And thank you!

 

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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