• Thu. Dec 9th, 2021

Taxi Brain: How Black London Taxi Drivers Contribute to Cutting-Edge Alzheimer’s Research

ByElla E. Kidwell

Nov 9, 2021

Black cab drivers have different brains than other people because of the large amount of navigation knowledge they have to store – and this helps scientists research the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

To become a skilled driver in an iconic London black cab, you must pass the “Know London” test, which requires memorizing thousands of streets, landmarks and routes in central London.

A requirement since 1865, the completion of Knowledge generally takes three or four years of hard work.

But researchers now believe that passing the test and using their knowledge for years to come doesn’t just mean London taxi drivers know the fastest route from Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge.

Study for Knowledge The brain also stimulates and enlarges the hippocampus, a part of the brain that controls learning and memory, and which shrinks during the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The brains of London taxi drivers are built differently

A 2000 study found that London taxi drivers had posterior seahorses larger than a control group, and a 2011 study The Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at University College London (UCL) supported the thesis that brains can develop later in life, after another study on black taxi drivers.

Today, a team led by Professor Hugo Spiers, professor of cognitive neuroscience at UCL, is studying their brains to better understand the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We don’t know much about how taxi drivers use their seahorses when planning routes,” Prof Spiers told the Washington Post.

“And 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. “

The Spiers team is always looking for volunteers for a project called “Taxi Brains”. According to the project’s website, “Understanding which parts of the hippocampus enlarge in relation to navigation ability will provide essential information needed to help develop diagnoses for the earlier detection of Alzheimer’s disease. “

“Early diagnosis will help doctors treat patients sooner, limiting disease and improving quality of life. “

Volunteers receive up to £ 30 (€ 35) for their participation, and they also receive a photo of their brain.

The test involves having an MRI after proving their ability to plan routes through London.

A taxi driver who took part in the study told BBC Radio 5 Live that “the research is quite well known among us, we can show ourselves, I have a bigger seahorse than you”.

“I also felt I had a good memory, but it’s a different kind of memory for driving a taxi. Geography to know where you are going is not the same as remembering things, it is picking up location signals and so on. The combination of the two meant that I was destined to be a taxi driver.

“It’s my fear of suffering from it. So all I can do to contribute to the total knowledge of it is more than my pleasure, ”he added.


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