Texting While Driving Might Derail Your Brain's 'Autopilot’

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Researchers Study – Risks of Texting & Driving

Researchers of University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute are making attempts in studying on countless things which could distract you while driving and which distractions could be riskier than others. In a latest study which has been sponsored partly by Toyota Class Action Settlement Safety Research and Education program, it has been observed how drivers managed when distracted by preoccupied thoughts, text messages and emotions.

Authors observed that when several studies had discovered the risks of texting and driving, there was less research on how other types of stressor could disturb your behaviour at the wheel. However, their results show that the most awful type of distraction could be checking the phone. The researchers discovered that people, who tend to drive being distracted or emotional, benefitted from a `sixth sense’ instinct which helped in navigating safely. In the meanwhile those who tend to text while driving did not experience the same defence. For research, 59 drivers had navigated a virtual stretch of highway four times, once under normal condition, once when they had been asked cognitively interesting questions, once when they were asked emotionally charged questions and once when they had been distracted through text.

Intervention of Brain – Anterior Cingulate Cortex - ACC

The researchers measured the sweat under the nose of the drivers, each time, which was an indicator of their stress level, how nervous their steering became and if or not they drifted out of their lane. The three kinds of distractions all seemed to heighten the perinasal perspiration levels of the driver, causing them to be more nervous.

 However when the drivers had been asked cognitively challenging as well as emotional rousing questions, they were capable of maintaining a straight course though texting led them to deviate out of their lane. Ioannis Pavlidis, PhD and Robert Wunderlich, lead researchers, guess that the paths of the drivers tend to remain straight under cognitive and emotional stress due to the intervention of a part of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex – ACC.

This tends to provide a fight or flight reflex. Pavlidis has stated that there is corrective action precipitated for sure from some brain centre possibly the ACC when one is distracted while performing a routine handy task, driving in this situation. When this distraction is purely mental, this corrective mechanism tends to work well.

ACC Needs Eye-Hand Coordination

However to do its job, your ACC needs eye-hand coordination.Wunderlich explains that `it appears that an eye-hand feedback loop is essential for the brain to be capable of accomplishing these corrections. The feedback loop gets disrupted when one looks at the phone.

Pavlidis further explains that when there is a physical distraction either by itself or in addition to mental distraction, the corrective mechanism seems to break down. The purpose is that the corrective function is subject to the physical resources, eyes and hands in this situation, to keep performing its auto-pilot task. All this indicates that reading as well as responding to messages on the road is considered as dangerous as one thought or could be much more.

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