The Brains Of London Cabbies

Dec 14 2011 @ 9:37am

In order to drive a taxi in London, applicants have to undergo an intense test of London's 25,000 roads and 2,000 landmarks. For the last 11 years, Eleanor Maguire has studied the brains of those who pass. Ed Yong recaps:

An enlarged hippocampus is a rare feature. You don’t see it in doctors who gain vast amounts of knowledge over many years. You don’t see it in memory champions who have trained themselves to remember seemingly impossible lists. You don’t see it in London’s bus drivers who have similar driving skills but work along fixed routes. Among all of these groups, only the London cabbies, with their superb spatial memories, have swollen hippocampi.These studies strongly suggested that their intensive training was the reason for the changes in the taxi drivers’ brains.

Maguire's takeaway:

We’re in a situation where people are living longer and often have to retrain or re-educate themselves at various phases in their lives. It’s important for people to know that their brains can support that. It’s not the case that your brain structure is fixed.