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Carnegie Mellon study shows just listening to cell phones significantly impairs drivers
Date:3/5/2008

n locations, each about the size of a peppercorn. Measurements were made every second.

The driving-while-listening condition produced a 37 percent decrease in activity of the brains parietal lobe, which is associated with driving. This portion of the brain integrates sensory information and is critical for spatial sense and navigation. Activity was also reduced in the occipital lobe, which processes visual information.

The other impact of driving-while-listening was a significant deterioration in the quality of driving. Subjects who were listening committed more lane maintenance errors, such as hitting a simulated guardrail, and deviating from the middle of the lane. Both kinds of influences decrease the brains capacity to drive well, and that decrease can be costly when the margin for error is small.

The clear implication is that engaging in a demanding conversation could jeopardize judgment and reaction time if an atypical or unusual driving situation arose, Just said. Heavy traffic is no place for an involved personal or business discussion, let alone texting.

Because driving and listening draw on two different brain networks, scientists had previously suspected that the networks could work independently on each task. But Just said this study demonstrates that there is only so much that the brain can do at one time, no matter how different the two tasks are.

The study emerges from the new field of neuroergonomics, which combines brain science with human-computer interaction studies that measure how well a technology matches human capabilities. Neuroergonomics is beginning to be applied to the operation of vehicles like aircraft, ships and cars in which drivers now have navigation systems, iPods and even DVD players at their disposal. Every additional input to a driver consumes some of his or her brain capacity, taking away some of the resources that monitor for other vehicles, lane markers, obstacles, and sudden changes in conditions.
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Contact: Byron Spice
bspice@cs.cmu.edu
412-268-9068
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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