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Adult Brains Grow From Specialist Use

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the use-it-or-lose-it dept.

Biotech 260

Xemu writes "Researchers at University College of London's Institute of Neurology have discovered that taxi drivers grow more brain cells in the area associated with memory. Dr Eleanor Maguire says, 'We believe the brain increased in gray matter volume because of the huge amount of data memorized.' She warns against the use of GPS and says it will possibly affect the brain changes seen in this study. This research is the first to show that the brains of adults can grow in response to specialist use." London cabbies, unlike their American counterparts, have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest in order to get a license.

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260 comments

Like every other muscle (4, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279326)

If you train it and work with it it will grow and remain strong.

My bulging typing fingers and keen google-foo are testament to that.

Re:Like every other muscle (5, Funny)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279362)

If you train it and work with it it will grow and remain strong.

My right arm and wrist are stronger than my left ... not sure how it ever got that way.

FUCK YOU, IM A QUE-HEGAN, AND I WILL BEAT YOUR ASS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279404)

Re:FUCK YOU, IM A QUE-HEGAN, AND I WILL BEAT YOUR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279754)

I'd rather stuff the dollars down my own pants.

Cause or Effect? (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279518)

Do taxi drivers' brains expand to provide more memory, or do people with poor memory just forget to become taxi drivers?

A huge problem with any of these correlation studies is determining, accurately, which way the cause->effect relationship runs.

Re:Cause or Effect? (2, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279872)

while i agree with you it's more like drivers who get lost easily don't tend to last long as a cab driver.

Also while there are some cab drivers who should be doing something else, There are those whose only real talent is directions and locations.

Re:Cause or Effect? (4, Interesting)

slamb (119285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280190)

EmbeddedJanitor asked
Do taxi drivers' brains expand to provide more memory, or do people with poor memory just forget to become taxi drivers? A huge problem with any of these correlation studies is determining, accurately, which way the cause->effect relationship runs.

A good question, but RTFA:

Dr Maguire said: "We are now looking at the brains of taxi-drivers before they start training, and at those of retired cabbies to see whether that area of the brain gets smaller when it is not used."

Hopefully they'll actually follow the pre-training drivers through all the way through training so they don't compare future wash-outs with present successful cabbies rather than future successful cabbies with present successful cabbies. If so, it should go a long way toward answering your question.

The ultimate would be to compare the same population of cabbies vs. bus drivers (control group) through their entire careers. Obviously that'd be a long-term study, and it will become impossible when "the Knowledge" is obsoleted by GPS mapping software. (I say "when" rather than "if". It will happen sooner or later.)

Like every other "pump". (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279666)

"If you train it and work with it it will grow and remain strong."

And for everyone else, there's Viagra.

Re:Like every other muscle (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279968)

Interesting you mention typing. I touch-typed with a regular QWERTY keyboard for at least 10 years, and two years back, I switched to the DVORAK layout. These days, people look at me in disbelief if they know I can program computers, but I start fumble with a regular keyboard. My muscle memory has completely changed over to dvorak and I can't type QWERTY worth a damn. I am a relatively quick learner (learned fluent dvorak by forcing it on myself in 8 hours of concentration) too.

My mother used to be fluent in French, being a translator. She hasn't used the language in 20 years. She has almost forgotten it completely as she can't make sentences so easily. (Though I am sure she can get back into it 100x faster than a newcomer).

It is almost like the brain is a muscle. After Terry Shiavo died, the autopsy found that her brain shrunk to the size of grapefruit.

I wonder if there is a correlation of speed of learning and speed of forgetting and the brains that "erase" (or shove aside) old info faster take in new information easier.

So how does this explain George Bush ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279330)



it seems his brain has decreased in capacity

Re:So how does this explain George Bush ? (0, Offtopic)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279480)

I'm going to start off by saying that I'm not an American ...

Honestly, George Bush has not been a very good president but I don't think the problem with his performance has anything to do with lack of intelligence. The War in Iraq is often mentioned as a "disaster" but has been one of the most successful and casualty free wars in history; the main problem with it is that it was sold to Americans on false information which brings up questions on the motivation for war (many people belive in a deeper conspiracy but if there was a successful conspiracy it would imply that GW was smarter than people suspected). The ecconomy is running into difficulty but a large portion of that is caused by the dramatic reduction in interest rates post 9-11 which drove up consumer spending and created massive inflationary pressures; ultimately, the recession that would have occured after 9-11 was delayed and it is difficult to know if it is for the better or for the worse.

Ultimately, GW was probably not a good president, but I don't think it is fair to say that he was all that dumb.

Re:So how does this explain George Bush ? (0, Offtopic)

bhirsch (785803) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279568)

Still better than Carter.

Re:So how does this explain George Bush ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279626)

Horseshit. If only Bush were as ineffective as Carter was, the world would be a much better place today.

Re:So how does this explain George Bush ? (1)

bhirsch (785803) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279712)

If it weren't for Carter's ineffectiveness, Bush would have never been elected.

Re:So how does this explain George Bush ? (0)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279720)

I'm starting to get tired of the "Bush==Dumb" meme. You repeat a joke long enough, and the idiots on Comedy Central start to believe it's true. The lack of a 4.0 GPA and Ivy League diction is irrelevant to intelligence. The truth is that NO ONE who manages to become president is dumb.

Re:So how does this explain George Bush ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279840)

Gerald Ford.

Karl Rove did the managing. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279936)

"... NO ONE who manages to become president is dumb."

Agreed. But George W. Bush did not do the managing, Karl Rove did. GWB merely followed Karl Rove's script.

I wrote a summary of the corruption of the Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld administration: George W. Bush comedy and tragedy [futurepower.org].

+1 Funny (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279808)

The War in Iraq is often mentioned as a "disaster" but has been one of the most successful and casualty free wars in history
Yeah, deteriorating into civil war, where over 100,000 civilians have already been killed is really "successful and casualty-free".

Re:+1 Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279876)

You forgot that 1 American = 1,000 non-American lives.

Re:+1 Funny (1, Offtopic)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279902)

"After 2 hours of bombardment, Tokyo was engulfed in a firestorm. The fires were so hot they would ignite the clothing on individuals as they were fleeing. Many women were wearing what were called 'air-raid turbans' around their heads and the heat would ignite those turbans like a wick on a candle. The aftermath of the incendiary bombings lead to an estimated 100,000 Japanese dead. This may have been the most devastating single raid ever carried out by aircraft in any war including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the firebombing of Dresden"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo_in_W orld_War_II [wikipedia.org]

Remember, the 100,000 number was the number of people who died directly from the bombing and doesn't include the thousands that would have died from famine/disease in the weeks and months following the bombing (which is what the estimate of 100,000 of Iraq's citizens is based off of).

Even today the number of those killed, military and civilian, in the period covered (1959-1975) is open to debate and uncertainty. To illustrate the problem, below are three reference works by three or more authors listing casualty figures. What is remarkable about them is that the only ones that seem to match are the ones that must be, at best, approximations. None of the figures include the members of South Vietnamese forces killed in the final campaign. Nor do they include the Royal Lao Armed Forces, thousands of Laotian and Thai irregulars, or Laotian civilians who all perished in that peculiar conflict. They do not include the tens of thousands of Cambodians killed during the civil war or the estimated one and one-half to two million that perished in the genocide that followed Khmer Rouge victory

1. Harry G. Summers, The Vietnam War Almanac. Novato CA: Presidio Press, 1985.

U.S. killed in action, died of wounds, died of other causes, missing and declared dead - 57,690. South Vietnamese military killed - 243,748. Republic of Korea killed - 4,407. Australia and New Zealand (combined) - 469. Thailand - 351. The Vietnam People's Army and NLF (combined) - 666,000. North Vietnamese civilian fatalities - 65,000. South Vietnamese civilian dead - 300,000.

2. Marc Leepson, ed, Webster's New World Dictionary of the Vietnam War. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999.

U.S. killed in action, etc. - 58,159. South Vietnamese military - 224,000. Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand - not listed. DRV military - not listed. DRV civilians - 65,000. South Vietnamese civilians - 300,000.

3. Edward Doyle, Samuel Lipsman, et al, Setting the Stage. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1981.

U.S. - 57,605. South Vietnamese military - 220,357. Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand - not listed. DRV and NLF deaths - 444,000. Combined DRV and RVN civilian deaths -587,000.

A fourth Source, John Rowe's Vietnam: The Australian Experience. Sydney: Time-Life Books Australia, 1987, gives a figure of 496 Australians killed in action or died of wounds.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_war#Casualtie s [wikipedia.org]

100,000 is a lot of people, and is larger than many of the cities that people will be reading Slashdot from but when you look at casualties of wars the US has been in the number has been steadily declining since World War 2.

Re:+1 Funny (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279952)

Oh my god, you're serious. I was holding out some hope that it was just clever satire. While the bombing of German and Japanese cities was terrible, it achieved something: the end of their military aggression. Tell me why exactly it was worth slaughtering Iraqi civilians when Iraq posed no immediate danger, and what objective has now been achieved?

Re:+1 Funny (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280072)

I never said it was a good war or that winning it achieved any grand victory but from a Military perspective it has been a very successful and reasonably casualty free war. I would agree with someone when they say that the war was unnecessary, or that it was an illegal war (if there is such a thing) but if you say that it has been anything except for successful for the American Military (or that there are a lot of civilian casulaties in this war) you're demonstrating a lack of objectivity in the discussion.

Re:+1 Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17280192)

Again, you fail to define what "successful" means. Was the INVASION successful? Sure. Was the WAR successful? You need to state the objective. If that objective included a secure, stable Iraq, then obviously it's been a catastrophic failure.

Re:So how does this explain George Bush ? (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279976)

I think the president has less to do with the economy (but not nothing). Also, I think our economic problems are only starting to emerge; but they go back further than that. Alan Greenspan is said to have had a very close relationship with Bill Clinton. Some have argued that he was reluctant to prick the dot-com bubble and create a potential recession under Clinton--he should have raised rates much earlier. The fake wealth created by dot-com I found its way into the real estate market. Interest rates that were lowered after 911 combined to fuel the real estate bubble. That bubble being toppy, the money fled to the last refuge--commodities such as gold, signaling the weakness in the dollar we're seeing.

The Iraq war is intertwined with the economy of course, because in addition to the needless killing there is needless spending. The only reason we don't see higher inflation numbers is because non-rental housing and energy are excluded from government figures. The real rate of inflation is considerably higher than the government reported rates, and this is being reflected in currency markets and the economic policies of foreign powers who know better than to believe some government report.

GWB is not so much stupid as he is foolish; not so much lacking in IQ as he lacks EQ. He was too willing to be lead by party ideologues and "yes men". He doesn't seem to have his own philosophy. He's too much of a "company man", the "company" being the right-wing "Christian" fundamentalists in his party. He probably has slightly above average IQ, but in the presidency you want someone who is both smart and wise. You don't want a slighly above average man in there. You want a superlative person, and superlative people usually have some independant thinking.

Re:So how does this explain George Bush ? (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280212)

GWB is not so much stupid as he is foolish; not so much lacking in IQ as he lacks EQ. He was too willing to be lead by party ideologues and "yes men". He doesn't seem to have his own philosophy. He's too much of a "company man", the "company" being the right-wing "Christian" fundamentalists in his party. He probably has slightly above average IQ, but in the presidency you want someone who is both smart and wise. You don't want a slighly above average man in there. You want a superlative person, and superlative people usually have some independant thinking.

I don't disagree with you ...

I'm (mostly) just tired of the constant partisan politics on Slashdot and become really frustrated when I see (reasonably) intelligent people attempt to discredt others through childish name calling rather than a mature debate. There are hundreds of questionable policies and decisions that the Bush Administration was responsible for where it would make sense to debate whether they were good/bad and what should have been done; instead you will hear "Bush is stupid". 10/20/30 years from now it is likely that similar circumstances will apear and no one will be better able to handle the situation.

WTF mods? Mod Parent Up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17280134)

Seriously WTF?

The parent is nether factually incorrect, trolling, off-topic (being that he is responding to a troll) or particularly offensive yet you mod the post down ...

Just because you disagree with something does not mean that you have to mod it down ...

Wow ... I'm always amazed at how close minded people can be

What about trivia nuts? (3, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279364)

Does memorizing the names and stats of baseball players make your brain grow?

What about people who memorize every little detail of Star Trek?

Or is it that only people with the additional brain mass CAN memorize all those items?

Re:What about trivia nuts? (1)

FyRE666 (263011) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279520)

Believe me, anyone who's taken a cab in London probably won't have gotten the impression that a London cabbie's ability to memorize the locations of thousands of streets has anything to do with their towering intellects ;-)

Re:What about trivia nuts? (3, Insightful)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279586)

Or is it that only people with the additional brain mass CAN memorize all those items?

Trust me, memorization has very little to do with intelligence and more to do with exposure and motivation to memorize a subject ...

I honestly don't think it should be a surprise that working with an area of your brain would increase its "strength." This is (effectively) what practice is ...

Take any person who has never learned a musical instrument before and examine the impact of musical stimulus on their brain. Spend 8 hours a day for the next year teaching them musical theory and composition as well as several instruments and then examine the impact of musical stimulus on their brain. Being that they've practiced and learned a lot about music, one would expect that their brain would suddenly become far more involved in the musical experience.

At the same time, one of the questions of a study like this would be what would the consequence of television be on a person's brain? For the most part television would be training the brain in a way which would not be particularly useful in any pursuit and yet many/most people have a ton of exposure to this influence.

Re:What about trivia nuts? (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279970)

I honestly don't think it should be a surprise that working with an area of your brain would increase its "strength." This is (effectively) what practice is

No surprise, yes, but often overlooked or disregarded. There have been studies on the brains of older folks and Alzheimer patients that have shown that people who make an effort to be stimulate their brains in later life (by reading, taking classes, learning music, etc.) tend to fare better than their counterparts. I wonder why it is that when people reach adulthood, they consider such activity as unimportant. Granted, kids are better wired to learn, and are able to absorb everything around them, but still, intellectual laziness can't be any more healthy than any other kind of laziness.

At the same time, one of the questions of a study like this would be what would the consequence of television be on a person's brain? For the most part television would be training the brain in a way which would not be particularly useful in any pursuit and yet many/most people have a ton of exposure to this influence.

Or clicking icons? ;-) I've always held to the theory that the more people rely on GUIs, the less they understand their computers. Being trained to be an office drone may be useful and appropriate, but given that computers are an integral part of our lives, you'd think we'd by trying harder and learning more. Instead, we get Wizards and yes/no/cancel dialog boxes and a general insistence that we don't want to be bothered with thinking because we're too busy. Sounds like we want everything to be just like TV.

Re:What about trivia nuts? (1)

nietsch (112711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279594)

Not that I read TFA, but the blurb suggests they tested experienced cabbies, not fresh ones. It would be interesrting to see fresh graduates compared to those who failed the exam. Your hypothesis would suggest that a very sizable portion (the ones with 'normal' size memory regions) would fail for the exam and not try again. That is very testable, how many people ultimately fail this exam? I think it is not a lot, as it would mean that you'd have to throw away all the time you had invested in learning those damn streets, and cabbies in general are not considered ultra smart. If being a cabbie really required you to have a very good memory, that would ultimately be reflected in their popular image like eg a doctor or an engineer.
In other words, if the test was really that hard that it would be highly selective, cabbies in london would be a lot smarter than they are.

Re:What about trivia nuts? (2, Interesting)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279678)

If you consider what a NEW development in the real history of man Writing is, Memorization was not just a good idea, it was all we had! if you look close at the great works of various tribes of man that come from before writing: Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the poetic Edda, early portions of the Sutras, etc. And if you look at later works such as the Janist Canon and the Koran; Rhyme scheme was the technique used to insure the passage of a piece of information unchanged down through the generations. The Skald, Bard, Dine` Singer, and other such were more then just respected within the tribe. THEY WERE THE TRIBE or, all of the tribe that was not present around the camp fire that cold neolithic evening when real evil lurked beyond the fire light. Tales of your grandfathers or in some cases, tales that remained unchanged down through ages were all we had.
Given the predilection of most hunan cultures to gather in data then burn it to the ground: Alexandria, the Niniveh library of Asur Bani Pal, and countless other examples, memory may be all we have in the future. Get your exercise folks
       

Re:What about trivia nuts? (1)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279730)

That's a good question. It reminds me of the episode of Next Generation where Geordi's VISOR (yeah, it's an acronym - stands for Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement) causes a subspace disruption because of some odd property of the region of space the Enterprise was traveling through, and Data's positronic brain ... actually I forget how it all ended up.

How do they know? (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279372)

'We believe the brain increased in gray matter volume because of the huge amount or data memorized.

Did these scientists have a "control experiment" done? The very usage of the word "believe" scares me. That means that there could be another scientist who might *not* believe.

May be those brain cells grow because of the working environment these taxi drivers find themselves in. In this case, they see so much traffic in their particular work day - maybe.

Re:How do they know? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279482)

Well, ideally there should always be another scientist who doesn't believe ... that's what keeps the bulk of science and its practitioners honest. All this scientist is saying is "here's our interpretation of the data, others will follow with their own interpretations and hopefully more experimental evidence." Doesn't scare me at all: it's the correct attitude. Where I do get nervous is when I hear something along the lines of "we've proven that the brain increased in gray matter because of the huge amount of data memorized." That's decidedly unscientific because it precludes the possibility of being wrong.

Re:How do they know? (0, Redundant)

shirai (42309) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279550)

Correlation does not equal causation.

Those with a higher brain capacity are precisely the type of people who would choose to become taxi drivers where their increased mental capacity could best be used to advance society.

Re:How do they know? (5, Insightful)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279556)

Did these scientists have a "control experiment" done? The very usage of the word "believe" scares me. That means that there could be another scientist who might *not* believe.

Welcome to the real world of science, where conclusions are not solid, facts are not certain, and evidence is only an indication. :)

Re:How do they know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17280064)

"believe" is in reference to what they think might underly the result, not to the result itself. You're allowed to speculate as to what you think might underly your results--you don't need a control for that.

Re:How do they know? (3, Interesting)

niconorsk (787297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279588)

From TFA:

In the study, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL's Institute of Neurology carried out scans on the brains of 35 cabbies and bus drivers, all men. Various psychological tests were also carried out. Using bus drivers meant that any brain differences found could not be explained by driving stress, or dealing with passengers and traffic in London. The one big difference between the two is that bus drivers stick to routes, while cabbies have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest to get an operating licence.
So clearly they had thought of that particular possibility. What concerns me though, is how they know that their brain matter has grown rather than just having large memory centers from the start. They should probably do the same experiment with cabbies preparing for their exam and take the measure before and after.

Re:How do they know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279608)

Your fears are well founded: as a scientist, I do *not* believe.

London cabbies... (5, Informative)

soliptic (665417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279374)

See The Knowledge [wikipedia.org] and the references from there. I think it is only required for taxicab drivers (ie "Black cabs"), not minicab drivers.

Speaking of cabbies (0, Flamebait)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279652)

Ossama Bin Laden dies, and is standing at the Pearly Gates. St Peter comes up on the other side, looks at Ossama and says "No , don't tell me, let me guess".

St Peter studies him a while, then turns his head and yells out:

" Hey Jesus, did you order a cab? "

Cheers

And Then 500 Years Later . . . (1)

unamiccia (641291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279728)

The Chief Examiner turned his attention on Carl and Antonë. He pushed his mirror away from his face and confronted them with his sweaty and distorted sneer. Judgement was nigh:

-- Az 2 U 2 -- the harsh Mokni consonents cut like knives through the thickening atmosphere of the forecourt -- U lì, U cheet, U R trayters, U R Fliars. U raze up ve toyist an drag dahn ve dävyn! He drew a scrap of black cloth from a fold of his robe and slapped it on to his bald wig. He parted his robe so that the sign of the Wheel was clearly visible on the sweaty breast of his T-shirt. he drew himself up to his full height and pronounced terrifying anathema on them:

-- U wil B takun bakk 2 ve Towa an brökun on ve Weel. Yaw tungs wil B cú aht. U wil B brandid an ung aht 2 dye inna box! Tayk em dahn! Ware2, guv? he bellowed.

-- 2 Nú Lundun, the forecourt responded in a subdued fashion.

-- Will Self, The Book of Dave (New York: Bloomsbury, 2006), 430.

Re:London cabbies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17280152)

minicabs and their drivers are illegal by the very definition. If they were legal, they would be black cabs. Therefore there are no regulations on what they need to know.

That aside, I took a minicab in London once and found it quite amusing. I was at a restaurant with some friends and they suggested a minicab home. I said sure, so they took me to a nightclub nearby and then we just stood outside talking. I was a little confused at this leap of logic, but sure enough, after about 5 minutes of just standing around in a small circle (nobody called or asked for a cab at any point) a very well dressed young man wandered up to us and asked if we would like to go for a drive. We all agreed this would be spendid and got into his late model car. Once the doors were shut and the windows up, the haggling began (no, he didn't really know how to get where we were going) and we were off.

Re:London cabbies... (1)

runcible (306937) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280188)

I'm from NYC, but I lived in London for a year and change around the time there were planes knocking shit over Stateside.

First time in London I get *lost*[0] both well and thoroughly looking for my office[1] and asked for directions several times. A couple of those times I was told "You should ask a cabbie." I honestly thought that this was a creative local way of saying "Fuck right off and leave me alone."

Wasn't until several days later that I realized they were being serious...

--

[0] Some Manahttan residents falsely believe that they are good navigators because they never get lost at home, if any of you are reading this: it's the *numbered streets*, it's not you -- go to a major European city without a map and you'll starve to death before you ever find your hotel again.

[1] For those of you keeping score, it was Southampton Street...NOT in fact the Southampton Buildings, nor Southampton Place, nor even Southampton Row -- all of which are in the same general area and all of which I was directed to at some point.

A little OT but a great idea for a book/movie (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279386)

I had some nightmares awhile back. I work in Manhattan and noticed that the majority of Taxi drivers can be "racial profiled" as terrorists if they happened to step into an airport. What if, it's true, all the Taxi drivers are heavily armed one day and decide to attack NYC.

According to this article they would know the area much better than the people who live and work there. Scary!

And yes! I have used LSD, frightening visions like this have haunted me since I was 17 years old. And I was there during the terrorist attacks.

Call me Nostradamus!

cabbies (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279394)

"London cabbies, unlike their American counterparts, have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest in order to get a licence."

I fell pretty lucky when I can find a cabbie in the US that speaks the language so I can tell them directions to where I want to go.

Re:cabbies (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279632)

Aren't American roads in the large cities laid out in grids anyway?

Couldn't a total newbie to the city basically get you anywhere by just being logical?

Re:cabbies (1)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279668)

Depends on what city you're in. If you're in New York or Washington DC, maybe. If you're in Boston, probably not.

Re:cabbies (1)

Saikik (1018772) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279804)

Yeah but in DC you need to know what quadrant of the City you're in. I swear it's easier to get lost there than NYC, and DC is only 1/8th the size.

Not D.C. (1)

Mateorabi (108522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280004)

D.C. is on a silly zone system rather than any rational a*time+b*distance formula. Trips accross town depend on how many zones you drive through. And guess who gets to pick the route? Yep, the cabbie. So he's bassicaly doing a min-max of the most zones he can drive through that isn't obviously going backwards while keeping the time down so he gets more fares. The end result is that trips between the same point can cost different customers WILDLY different ammounts.


And grid cities can still be confusing when you throw in one way streets, diagonal streets (all the state named avenues in DC), streets that don't exist for one or more blocks then start up again, traffic circles, traffic sqares, etc. But don't blame us, DC was laid out by a Frenchman.

Re:cabbies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279918)

Aren't American roads in the large cities laid out in grids anyway?

Sort of. Relying on this pattern for long journeys isn't practical; 15 miles of lights every 1/4 mile is tedious. Freeways cut across these grids at essentially arbitrary angles. The thing you need to know to navigate a large US city is where the Freeways will get you. When going from a to b, you typically determine which two or more Freeways you'll use, only tolerating the 'surface' roads at the start and end.

While freeways are well signed and simple to drive, if you're not familiar with the area's local names for stuff it is easy to get confused. The freeways are also rather disconnected from the surroundings; there are fewer landmarks to rely on. You can pass though significant urban area without seeing it due to embankments. If you have a navigation computer it's cake.

Anyhow, your point is taken, US cities are generally easier to navigate than typical European cities. Two reasons; having cars in mind while building (except for small areas of the East coast,) and not having to conform to the geography; we just move it.

But journalists don't haave the same benefit... (1)

bigtomrodney (993427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279400)

Slashdot editors don't get the same benefit from firehosing all day eh? ;) This research has been around and mainstream a long time - check this out on BBC News [bbc.co.uk]. March 2000...

london streets (2, Informative)

endx7 (706884) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279424)


London cabbies, unlike their American counterparts, have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest in order to get a licence.

London is also harder to get around, due to the way street names in London work.

Re:london streets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279670)

This requirement seems discriminatory. Driving cabs is typical entry level work for immigrants in the US. Obviously requiring familiarity with the area is going to discourage new arrivals in favor of the natives.

Re:london streets (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279802)

It's discriminatory to require that people whose job it is to transport people from place to place in an efficient fashion actually know the places they're transporting to and from and their relationship to one another?

That's mind-bogglingly stupid, and that's even taking into account the forum in which you said it.

Re:london streets (5, Insightful)

gilgongo (57446) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279858)

One side effect of London cabbies having to do "The Knowledge" to get a license is that it creates a market for cheap, illegal cab drivers to fill the supply gap brough about by having such an exclusive system. With hoards of unlicensed cabbies around, women get raped, uninsured road accidents happen, tourists get ripped off and legitimate cab fares are sky high.

I am a Londoner, and I think the sooner the GPS makes The Knowledge a prerequisite of licenced cab driving irrelevant, the better. The times I've been to NYC and got a cab it's been paradise in comparison.

Re:london streets (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280058)

Maybe navigation in New York is easy. In San Francisco you have to act as navigator yourself for taxi drivers, but for some reason they don't pay you for your work. In London I can step in a cab unprepared and know that I can get to even obscure little streets with the minimum of hassle.

Old news for nerds? (4, Informative)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279428)

Studies were published in the year 2000 [pnas.org]. Why is this now getting attention? Actually, come to think of it, I think it got attention back then too.

Re:Old news for nerds? (1)

drmarcj (807884) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279460)

Yeah, funny how the results of this study has gotten recycled several times over the last five years. In the end, the fact that they studied taxi drivers in London sells a lot better than some of the excellent hard science this group's been doing more recently. But I guess you gotta pay the bills...

Re:Old news for nerds? (1)

BitHive (578094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279542)

Glad to see I'm not the only one who remembers this. Anyone that likes these kinds of stories should look into Neuroplasticity [wikipedia.org] research. The brain's capacity for reorganization is enormous.

mandatory response RE:Old news for nerds? (1)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279784)

Studies were published in the year 2000 [pnas.org]. Why is this now getting attention?

You must be new here.

Re:Old news for nerds? (1)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279886)

Yep, I remember this was on TV at least 5 years ago - good to know its the same study. (or not?)

Re:Old news for nerds? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279960)

Studies were published in the year 2000. Why is this now getting attention? Actually, come to think of it, I think it got attention back then too.

Perhaps because those who most welcome the news are the most likely to have forgotten?
     

Re:Old news for nerds? (2, Informative)

blakestah (91866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279988)

Yeah, I was suspicious of it then, too.

The taxi drivers have a 20% reduction in anterior hippocampus. And
a 7-8% increase in posterior hippocampus.

Therefore the brain grows from experience!
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/97/8/4398/F2 [pnas.org]

Then they went on to show a correlation with time as a taxi driver,
but it was only significant if they removed one outlier, a process
that COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN important to their statistical
finding.
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/97/8/4398 [pnas.org]

That part of the brain has neurons that are selectively active
for the spatial position of the body in rats and Rhesus monkeys. So
it would not be surprising to find it responded to taxi driving
experience. But the surprising thing is the much larger reduction in
anterior hippocampal volume is being ignored...

I am totally in favor of our new GPS automatic map making
overlords!

Unlike American cab drivers .... (1)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279440)

American cabbies are usually fine, but then again ....

I once had this cab driver who picked me up from Fairbanks International and didn't know the way to Ester.* He was actually angry at me for "wasting his time" and wanted me to call 911 for directions and eventually dropped me back off the airport and wanted $25 for his trouble. (!)

*Ester is a little village a few miles from Fairbanks on a major road that anyone of speaking age who's lived in town for more than a month can give you directions to. I know where it is now. :-)

My brane is huge (2, Funny)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279458)

Well that's good news because now I can say that playing MTG and Guild Wars and reading comic books has been simply to increase my brain size. Nothing to do with being a huge nerd. Oh, wait.

Re:My brane is huge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279640)

So huge that you can't even spell "brain."

Re:My brane is huge (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279916)

Thanks for pointing out my subtle humor to the feeble-minded. I appreciate it :-)

In other news... (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279484)

People have no idea what the phone numbers are for their friends/family as they've all been programmed into speed dial.

Re:In other news... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279544)

In the year 2525, if Man is still alive,

Arms and legs have nothin' to do,

some machine be doin' it for you.


Apparently this applies to our brains as well as our limbs.

Trig? (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279492)

I wonder if these crazy trigonometry identities that I'm struggling to memorize are doing me more harm than good...

Does this mean... (4, Interesting)

Kiba Ruby (1037440) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279506)

Does this mean that programmers are more logical than people?

Re:Does this mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279848)

It mean all specialists tend to develop grey matter more than those who do not focus on a specific task.

And programmers are people too. If you just forgot "other people" then you must realize programmers focus FAR less on a specific task than many other specialists.

GPS is dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279512)

Since I've got one, I've totally lost my ability to tell my altitude, longitude, and latitude. I get real dizzy all the time.

Butlerian Jihad? (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279526)

"She warns against the use of GPS and says it will possibly affect the brain changes seen in this study."

So we shouldn't use technology because it interferes with their study? Or maybe they just think that somehow humanity will become smarter and more efficient as adults make new brain cells specific to a task? Darwinian natural selection issues aside, it sounds like something straight out of Frank Herbert's series.

Does this apply only to "brain" mass ? (2, Insightful)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279528)

"GPS [Global Positioning System] may have a big effect," says Dr Eleanor Maguire, who led the research at University College London. "We very much hope they don't start using it. We believe this area of the brain increased in grey matter volume because of the huge amount or data they have to memorise.If they all start using GPS, that knowledge base will be less and possibly effect the brain changes we are seeing."

So, Construction Workers shouldn't use heavy equipment because it could effect their muscle tone ?

Wrong brain cell, doofus! (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279560)

Damn. I wish taxi drivers would grow more brain cells in the region of driving ability, or in the "direction finding and map reading" area.

Re:Wrong brain cell, doofus! (2, Insightful)

FyRE666 (263011) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279654)

In defence of London cabbies, it's hard to fault them on their ability to drive or navigate between two points. I've no idea how they manage to stand 8 hours a day of London traffic without becoming raging psychopaths though...

And? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279564)

London cabbies, unlike their American counterparts, have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest in order to get a licence.

In the US customers ain't worth such effort.

As a matter of fact you have to watch out they don't infect you with AIDS or crap like that through needles they drop on your driver seat because they also have a serious mental illness.

What is it with... (-1, Troll)

stubear (130454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279764)

...all the jingoism on the internet? Why the hell was this comment even made:

"London cabbies, unlike their American counterparts, have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest in order to get a licence."

Does your dick feel bigger now that you've besmirched Americans? Why the comparison to American cabbies? Why not French or Egyptian cabbies? Have you ever been to Cairo? The fact that cabbies can get anyone anywhere in that city amazes me. Perhaps American cabbies just know where the hell they're going, test or no test. I have yet to see a cab GPS in it yet I've always been able to get to my destination with no problems. The aforementioned comment could have been just as insightful, if nor more so, had it simply been "London cabbies have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest in order to get a licence."

Re:What is it with... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279884)

I (British (English)) now live in the USA.
I have not taken many cab rides over here (too damn expensive).
Without exception, during the few rides tha tI have taken, I have had to tell the driver how to get there. Fortunately I was warned about this phenomenon.
I haven't taken a cab in Cairo.
I have taken a cab in Sweden. It was well equiped with credit card readers, GPS and internet connection! (Probably included a few things I didn't recognize)
I have taken cab rides in other countries too. Nothing stands out in my memory about them though (apart from getting ripped off in Italy)

His dick probably feels bigger because it is larger.
He probably made the comment about the USA (I am guessing rather than America) because that is where most /. readers originate from.
Maybe you are feeling sensitive? Please tell us more

Re:What is it with... (2, Insightful)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279938)

Oooo, touchy !

No doubt British Taxis are better than French & Egyptian taxis as well but since most people who read this are American it makes more sense to point out how much better they are than Americans rather than some other random country.

Good job! (1)

jgartin (177959) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279838)

London cabbies, unlike their American counterparts, have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest in order to get a licence.

Way to compare a single city's regulations to an entire country's very diverse regulations.

Re:Good job! (2, Interesting)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279978)

In fact Black Cab drivers anywhere in the UK have to take the same test tailored to their own areas. Since London is the largest urban area in the UK the London test includes more locations and streets and is the most complex.

Mini cab drivers do not have to take the Knowledge but if you ask them they are mostly studying to pass it, this can take up to 2 or 3 years of study even whilst operating as a mini cab in that time.

Plato/Socrates said that about writing too... (5, Interesting)

KarmaRundi (880281) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279942)

"Soc. At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality." Translation nabbed from here [muohio.edu]

Bet he would have hated Google. All we have to remember now is how to use it and a few key words.

Now, What is the motivation? (1)

edbarbar (234498) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279948)

"We very much hope they don't start using it [GPS]. We believe this area of the brain increased in grey matter volume because of the huge amount or data they have to memorise.If they all start using GPS, that knowledge base will be less and possibly effect the brain changes we are seeing."


I'm not clear if Dr. Maguire (and whoever the "we" is she refers to), don't want taxi drivers to use GPS because she wants to require the cabbies to have a huge knowledge base or because she wants to see the brain changes. She doesn't indicate any value to the cabbies over GPS.

Perhaps she (and her "we") just likes the aesthetic of large brain sections?

Re:Now, What is the motivation? (2, Interesting)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280030)

In the UK mini cabs mostly have GPS ( the legal ones at least ) whilst the Black Cabs don't. In my totally unscientific studies the Black Cabs are far more effective at getting you to places than the GPS equipped mini cabs.

For example the road I live on has a name which is repeated a number of times in the City I live in in different areas but with Black Cabs I only have to say "[my road name] by the park just under the bridge" to get there with no further questions asked whereas with the mini cabs it can take them a long time to put my postcode into their machines or determine where exactly the road is to plot a route to it. Normally even having done this you have to tell them the way at every junction anyway.

in other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17279980)

Human brains have been found to shrink after days of watching Taxi reruns.

London cabbies vs American cabbies (3, Insightful)

56ker (566853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17279998)

London cab driver (visiting my mum's cousin):-

No map required, took us directly to the street - no problems - good tip

American cab driver (picked me up from Dallas Fort Worth airport)

Said he "used to live there", had a map - was only 6 miles from the airport but he managed to get lost, take about an hour or two to get there (had this insistence he must drop me off at the correct number) and ended up charging less than what was on his meter out of embarrassment.

So, yes I'll take a London cab driver (or walking/public transport if I'm in America) vs their American equivalent any day of the week. :)

Sounds like a good reason *for* GPS (2, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280098)

Sounds to me like using a GPS means there is more space in your skull for your brain to expand to deal with interesting tasks rather than mundane crap like how to get from A to B. I think I'll get one today.

London Cabbies... (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280176)

London cabbies, unlike their American counterparts, have to learn the layout of streets and the locations of thousands of places of interest in order to get a licence.

Because all American cities are laid out in square grids of exact size and cabbies drive from one end to the other in a continuous loop like little yellow trains.

Yes, yes, I know London is complicated, but come on now.

Use a GPS. Save your brain for something better. (4, Insightful)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 7 years ago | (#17280182)

Recommending that GPS units shouldn't be used because it would cause a change in the person's brain is ridiculous unless the benefit of *not* changing the brain is good for anything other than the task the GPS does.

American Scientist had an episode where they taught a seeing girl braille, and tested her ability while doing an fMRI. The sections of her brain that fired during the test were associated with tactile processing. Then they blindfolded her for 100 hours, and retested. This time, her visual cortex was firing. The brain is dynamic and can repurpose unused neurons. This may be why people can no longer remember 7-digit telephone numbers: We all have PDA/cell phones to do it for us.

Is this bad? Not unless you value the ability to remember phone numbers.

Would it be bad if London taxi drivers no longer knew every little alleyway? Not so long as they could still accomplish their task.

BTW, I had a very different experience with a cabby in Paris. I told him where I wanted to go and he handed me a road atlas and said, "Trouvez-le."
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