STUDY CONFIRMS THAT LONDON TAXIN DRIVES HAVE A LARGER POSTERIOR HIPPOCAMPUS
Okay, that headline seems like a casual question. But if you already know what a posterior hippocampus is, you know it’s weird. And once you realize that is a part of the brain, it becomes less casual, and way more interesting. The brain is still in many ways a mystery to science. We know a lot and more every day. But truly, we are still in mostly undiscovered country when it comes to the human brain. And this story is another acre, perhaps, that we have to consider. Taxi drivers in London have larger than average posterior hippocampus sections in their brains. But how, and why?
LONDON TAXI DRIVERS HAVE TO MEMORIZE EVERY LONDON STREET, CREATING THEIR OWN INTERNAL MAP
Well, it has something to do with the really challenging preparation you have to do to even be allowed to drive a London taxi cab. They have to complete something called “The Knowledge.” And that means passing a test involving a series of oral exams that test drivers’ ability to completely memorize the streets of London. And the thoroughfares, other pathways, all without using any maps or any devices. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. To be a taxi driver in London! And the ones who pass and become actual London Taxi drivers have a larger than average posterior hippocampus as a result.
LONDON TAXI DRIVERS STUDY HARD FOR 4 YEARS, MAKING THEIR POSTERIOR HIPPOCAMPUS LARGER
Ironically, the drivers’ internal maps of London in their brains is helping science understand our own mapping of the brain itself. This first came to light 20 years ago, and was confirmed in a subsequent study that followed London taxi drivers in training over the 4 years they were in training. And yes, becoming a London taxi driver takes just as long as it does to go to college! But this research into the brains of taxi drivers and their larger posterior hippocampus could lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s. If we understand more about how to wire and re-wire the brain, we can do more to both prevent and treat brain disease.