London cabbies have larger brain parts

By Murray Bourne, 16 Aug 2006

An article in CNN, London cabbies: Brain cell mightier than microchip [no longer available], talks about how London cabbies are not very interested in using satellite navigation systems.

The cabbies need to pass the most difficult cabbie license test in the world, called "The Knowledge", where they need to demonstrate that they know hundreds of routes, street names and main buildings.

From a learning point of view, it's quite something. They are certainly making full use of Tony Buzan's association, image and location memory concepts.

I found the following very interesting - how learning can change brain size and shape:

The test is so tough -- it can take up 34 months of study, albeit part-time, to pass -- that academic studies have shown part of the brain of successful applicants actually enlarges.

Scientists found London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with navigation, than other people.

When we talk about "changing someone's mind", we are literally changing the connections in their brain. This goes for learning new material as much as un-learning old beliefs.

Footnote: Now if only the Singapore cabbies could learn some more routes and place names, it would be great. Currently, when you get in and tell them where you want to go, they say "Which way you like to go, ah?". Translation: "I don't have a clue where that place is − tell me how to get there".

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