Maguire et al. were attempting to demonstrate the plasticity of the brain.

  • Created by: Shannen
  • Created on: 19-03-12 12:18

Maguire- Brain Study

What was the aim of the study?

To investigate whether changes could be detected in the brains of London taxi drivers and to further investigate the functions of the hippocampus in spatial memory.

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Maguire- Brain Study

Describe the sample used in the study.

  • 16 right-handed male taxi drivers and 16 right-handed male non-taxi drivers. They were compared with the scans of 50 right-handed male non-taxi drivers.
  • They were aged 32- 62 and the mean age was 44.
  • All taxi drivers had been so for at least 1.5 years
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Maguire- Brain Study

ONE limitation of this sample:

A limitation of this sample is that all of the participants are males. This means that the results cannot be at all generalised across genders (we are unable to observe gender differences)

ONE strength of this sample:

The 50 non-taxi drivers acted as a control group for comparison. This means that they were able to clearly observe the changes that were made to the taxi drivers hippocampi.

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Maguire- Brain Study

Outline how the behaviour of the brain was measured:

There were three different ways in which they measure the activity of the brain.

1) They used and MRI scanner, these scans were then looked at by an independent doctor at the hospital who did not know which scans had come from the taxi drivers.

2) VBM was then used to analyse the 26 seperate slices of the brain. Voxel-based Mophology measures the density of grey matter in the brain and provides a 3D measurement of volume of an area.

3) Pixel Counting was also used. This is the procedure of counting the number of pixels in the MRI scan. A pixel is a 2D measurement of an area. The areas they measured were calculated by taking whole slice images of the hippocampi.

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Maguire- Brain Study

Outline the Results:

  • The overall volume of the hippocamus did not differ significantly between the two groups 
  • A positive correlation was found between the VBM measured volume of the right posterior hippocampus and length of time spent as a taxi driver
  • A negative correlation was found between the volume of the anterior hippocampus and time spent as a taxi driver
  • As the length of time they had been a taxi driver increased, the mass of the anterior hippocamit moved to the anterior-suggesting brain plasticity.
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Maguire- Brain Study

TWO strengths and TWO weaknesses:


  • The study had high control. For example the samples were matched for age, sex and handedness.
  • The MRI scans provided the researchers with vast amounts of scientific, objective, quantitative data relating to the volume and size of the hippocampus.


  • MRI scanning is costly as both a piece of scientific equipment and the time of the researcher.
  • The sample were all right handed males, there could be unknown differences between left handed people and females.


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