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The brains of London cab drivers
2009-01-04 19:36:57 - by Nicolas Malevé

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«In a study that generated considerable media interest (and won her an Ig Nobel Prize), in 2000 Dr Eleanor Maguire scanned the brains of 16 London black-cab drivers, who had spent an average of two years learning ’the Knowledge’ – street names and routes in London. The taxi drivers had a larger right hippocampus than control subjects, and the longer they had been on the job, the larger their hippocampus was. These findings seem to indicate that the right hippocampus plays an important role in storing spatial memories.

[...]

"When we travel down a route we are familiar with, we often can’t see our destination. Instead, we have an image of it in our mind, and a mental map of how to get there. But this mental map is very different from a street map. I’m trying to understand how we create internal three-dimensional representation of space and our position within it."

She is also interested in another form of memory, linked to spatial memory, which appears to be mediated by the left, rather than the right hippocampus. "Having created an internal representation of large-scale space, how do we structure episodic memories – particular events and personal experiences that occurred at a specific time and place – within that environment?" »

Read more or watch the video on the National Geographic website