The Knowledge Brain

December 8, 2011 by staff 

The Knowledge Brain, The structure of a London taxi driver’s brain changes during the gruelling process of learning the quickest way around the capital, scans reveal. Dozens of trainee drivers had MRI scans before and after they acquired “The Knowledge”, memorising hundreds of journeys and street names.

The University College London team, writing in Current Biology, found parts of brain linked to memory grew bigger. They said it proved the brain could adapt to new tasks, even in adulthood. Earlier studies of the brain of the cabbie had already noted the increase in “grey matter” in the hippocampus, an area found at the base of the brain. However this research tried to work out if the change had happened during the intensive learning period prior to starting work, or on the job itself.

They scanned a total of 79 trainees, just before they started to learn the “All-London” Knowledge, which can take between two and four years to complete. Would-be taxi drivers have to learn 320 routes within a six mile radius of Charing Cross, which covers a mind-boggling 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks and places of interest.

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