London’s ‘black taxi’ drivers are the subject of Alzheimer’s research

Aside from the left-hand traffic on the streets of England’s capital, London, some of the first things to notice are red buses and big black taxis with their own “old-fashioned” designs.

The drivers who use these taxis, which have an important place in the history of London, have a feature that we do not know at all. The wayfinding and memory information of London taxi drivers is helping scientists with their state-of-the-art Alzheimer’s research.

In order to become a taxi driver in London, you must be 18 years old and have a driving license for at least 12 months. However, even if you get a driver’s license at 18, you cannot become a black taxi driver in London before the age of 21.

Health and technical exams aside, you need to know the streets of London very well and you have to pass the driving knowledge test. This regulation has been in practice since 1865, although there are some differences. This is where the hardest part is.

Because the brains of black taxi drivers in London are overloaded with navigational knowledge, they work differently than normal people. Scientists are conducting important studies on Alzheimer’s disease by examining taxi drivers in London.

Studies to increase information in memory also stimulate and enlarge the “hippocampus”, the part of the brain that controls learning and memory and shrinks at the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Briefly, the hippocampus is the region of the brain that has the most important role in memory and navigation.

However, this knowledge of taxi drivers in London does not mean that they know how to get from Buckingham Palace to London Bridge by the shortest route.

“London taxi drivers’ brains develop differently”

In a study conducted at the University of London College (UCL) Neurological (brain scan) Imaging Center in 2000, it was determined that the posterior hippocampus of taxi drivers working in London was larger than normal people.

Another study conducted in 2011 proved the thesis that this ability of taxi drivers in London developed their brains later in life.

Recently, a faculty member of the UCL Cognitive Neuroscience Department Prof. Dr. A new study led by Hugo Spiers re-examines the brains of these drivers to gain insight into the onset of Alzheimer’s.

prof. Dr. “We don’t know very well how taxi drivers train the hippocampus in their brains as soon as they calculate routes,” Spiers told the Washington Post. he said.

“Taxi brain” project

“How do taxi drivers use other brain regions to solve the task of navigating and planning 26,000 streets and alleys? Can we explain why they spend a little more time planning one route quickly and calculating another? We need to learn more about this topic,” Spiers said. ” says.

Hugo Spiers and his team said they are looking for volunteers to develop the research they call the “taxi brain”. The statement on the project’s website states: “Determining which side of the hippocampus in the brain grows when calculating directions and routes for taxi drivers will help provide critical insights needed for male diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Early diagnosis in Alzheimer’s disease allows doctors to treat their patients faster, while increasing the patient’s standard of living.

Those who volunteer in the project are paid 35 euros and given a detailed photograph of their brains. After passing the navigation test in London, the subjects’ brains are then scanned with an MRI. In an interview with BCC Radio 5, a taxi driver who participated in the experiment stated that the study was very popular among drivers. “We joke among ourselves that our hippocampus is bigger than yours.” says and adds:

“I realized that I have a good memory. However, this is a bit different from driving a taxi. Knowing how to get somewhere and being able to remember things are two different things. Finding a direction is like getting a signal from a point. He brought it up to be his driver.”

“I am afraid to suffer from this. Therefore, I try to reach every information that will contribute to my profession. This is more than pleasure for me.”

There are more than 60,000 streets and alleys within 10 kilometers of London.

The Transport for London sets the rules for becoming a black taxi driver in London.

Anyone over the age of 18 who wants to become a taxi driver has to pass a theoretical and a practical exam. In the theoretical exam, besides questions about highway law, math skills and taxi law, knowledge of the city, which is the field of study, is tested.

It is necessary to answer 18 out of 24 questions correctly in the city knowledge (Knowledge) exam. City information is the nightmare of those who want to get a taxi license in London. The capital of about 9 million people, together with its suburbs, is spread over an area of ​​1,572 square kilometers. However, there are more than 60,000 streets and alleys within a radius of about 10 kilometers in London, the majority of which are either one-way or have restricted turns.

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