London’s black cabbies hailed for brain research into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Black cab drivers in London are renowned across the world for their mind-boggling knowledge of London’s streets. Cabbies are now helping out with research into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite the complexity of London’s streets, licenced black cabbies do not use GPS technology like most of us. They depend on their brains and “the knowledge”. Cabbies spend years learning the near 60,000 streets across London as part of “the knowledge”.
A new project has been set up by University College London’s (UCL’s) Spatial Cognition Group. Around 30 taxi drivers are helping out with the UCL’s Taxi Brains project. The findings from the project will help with Alzheimer’s disease diagnostics.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is supporting the project. The new project is based on research carried out by UCL neuroscientist Professor Eleanor Maguire. The previous research was conducted around 20 years ago.
Professor Hugo Spiers, from UCL’s department of experimental psychology, spoke of the taxi drivers’ brains and explained: “Their hippocampus appears to get bigger the more years they put into the job,
“That’s really interesting for dementia research, because it’s precisely the part of the brain that declines in size with Alzheimer’s disease.”
He added: “Maybe there’s something very protective about working out your spatial knowledge on a daily basis, like these guys do,
“It may not necessarily be spatial, but just using your brain rather than Google Maps might actually help – in the same way that physical fitness is important.”
Author of The Knowledge: How to Train your Brain like a London Cabbie, Robert Lordan, commented: “It’s been a joy to help [the research team] with this work and feel that I’m able to use my brain to help scientists combat dementia.”
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