Cab Drivers Have an Enlarged Hippocampus: Scientific Fact!
LONDON Black Cab drivers are renowned for being ultra-brainy: they are expected to memorise the route to up to 250,000 different roads in the capital, and they are not given a licence until they have demonstrated they have "The Knowledge". And boy, can they talk politics and solve the world's wrongs! Many trainees drop out along the way and some take up to five years to qualify.
In addition, it is said that if you can drive in London, you can drive anywhere. One notable London cabbie was Fred Housego an ordinary working-class London Taxi Driver who won the snooty BBC tv programme MASTER MIND, normally populated by posh lecturers and civil servants with his amazing memory for random general knowledge facts & figures.
Scientists have now discovered that cab drivers have an internal Satnav, that many of us do not have, and it has been located in the hippocampus towards the back of the brain. Cab drivers were found to have an enlarged hippocampus which started firing neurons like mad as their cab driver owners ruminated on what route to take from A to B.
The secret of how London cabbies find their way around has been discovered.
Scientists say the drivers' brains have developed a strong "internal satnav".
Researchers at the Wellcome Trust put dozens of cabbies in a brain scanner, asked them to play a computer game recreating London streets and then analysed their brain activity.
The scientists found the brain area known as the hippocampus was larger than average in cabbies.
"The hippocampus is crucial for navigationand we use it like a 'sat nav'," Dr Hugo Spiers of the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience at UCL told the BA Festival of Science in Liverpool today. "London taxi drivers have powerful innate satnavs, strengthened by years of experience."
He identified three types of cell behind the satnav effect: place cells map our location, direction cells tell us which way we are facing and grid cells how far we have travelled.