A The University College London research project is studying the brains of those it thinks have the best memories: the city’s taxi drivers.
The project, led by Professor Hugo Spiers and three doctoral students, is called “Taxi Brains” and will determine whether the hippocampus regions of the brains of taxi drivers contain clues to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease research. Spiers chose to analyze taxi drivers because taxi drivers “have remarkable brains,” according to the Washington Post.
âWe don’t know much about how taxi drivers use their seahorses when planning routes,â Spiers said. âAnd how do they use other areas of the brain to solve the task of walking 26,000 streets? Can we explain why they might be quick to plan one route and take time to think another? that we need to know more. “
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The hippocampus is a part of the brain that plays a major role in learning and memory. Spiers said that among taxi drivers, the hippocampus seems to get bigger the longer they are at work, while the same area is known to shrink in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
To become a taxi driver, a person must first pass a series of exams over a period of three to four years known as âKnowledgeâ. To get a full license with a “green badge” to drive anywhere in London, a driver must know how to plot routes without GPS around 26,000 streets and know where to find 100,000 businesses and landmarks. The exams have been around since 1865 and have been hailed as possibly the most difficult memory test in the world.
To collect the research results, Spiers asks volunteer taxi drivers to perform magnetic resonance imaging analysis and view photos of monuments and street names in London. Drivers are asked to trace 120 routes in their minds from point A to point B while their brains are scanned. They are also asked to play a video game to test their brains’ complex spatial navigation abilities, the outlet reported.
Spiers and his team plan to report the results of their studies to Alzheimer’s Research UK, with preliminary results available next summer.
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Spiers did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner request for comment.
Original location: London taxi drivers’ brains to be studied for Alzheimer’s research
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