• Wed. Sep 21st, 2022

Taxi brains – how London’s black taxi drivers and their knowledge of mapping are helping Alzheimer’s research

ByElla E. Kidwell

Aug 16, 2022

Funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and OS, the study recruited London taxi drivers because of their incredible ability to reconstruct the capital’s 26,000 streets. The study focuses on a specific part of the brain, the hippocampus, which is involved in memory and spatial awareness and is often one of the first areas damaged in Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead researcher Professor Hugo Spiers (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) hopes the results of this study will help develop diagnostics to improve the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Professor Spiers said: ‘We know from previous research that the hippocampus in the brains of London taxi drivers is larger than average and is also an area that shrinks in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers. We hope taxi drivers will help us learn more about how the hippocampus helps us navigate, which could provide new insights into how this part of the brain is involved in the early stages of hippocampus disease. Alzheimer’s.

Jeremy Morley, OS Chief Geospatial Scientist, added: “It is great to support a project that will hopefully unlock valuable insights into Alzheimer’s disease. We are also interested in how taxi drivers’ brains support the essential skill of quickly deciding how to move between two landmarks in London. The aim is to mimic the way the brain evolved to do this in order to improve the results of satellite navigation systems, particularly in finding alternative routes for travel.

He continued: “At OS, we are also interested in how the maps of the future are presented, viewed and used. Whether it’s for game engines, entertainment, transportation, or machine-to-machine access via APIs, it’s about not deciding the purpose before publishing. It’s a great new horizon.

Find out more about Professor Spiers and Jeremy Morley’s project on this podcast:

For more information, watch London driver Black Cab John and research scientists Christoffer Gahnstrom PhD and Sarah Goodroe PhD discuss this groundbreaking science experiment: