maguire et al study: taxi drivers' brains
brain plasticity: how flexible are our brains?
our brains, or parts of them, can actually change size (or rather shape or structure) in order to accommodate new information.
jacobs et al looked at the portion of the human cerebral cortex responsible for understanding words (wernicke's area) using deseased individuals who had given their consent prior to death.they compared the effects of enrichment in tissue from individuals who went to college and those who did not. results showed more dendrites in the college students.the same occurs in animals.
recent research has shown that brain cells can regenerate. for example eriksson et al identified the fact that the human hippocampus retains its ability to generate new neuronal cells throughout life, through a process known as neurogenesis.studies have established the neuroplasticity of the brain: brains can change in response to the external stimuli.these changes can be both functional eg changes in neurotransmitters and structual changes in the size and number of synaptic connections between neurones.
the hippocampus is very important for memory.it is linked to the conversion of short term to more permanent memory. if it is damaged than the person has the ability to retain past memories but not new memories, known as anterograde amnesia, although they can learn new skills.this suggests that there are different regions in the brain that store the ability to do different things. it can also connect memories giving them meaning. for example, the hippocampus may connect the memory of a visit to a certain location with the information about where you went and how it looked and sounded.the hippocampus is also related to spatial relationships, the location of places or objects and the distances and routes between them.
the hippocampus helps us to navigate through familiar and unfamiliar environments.so it plays an important role in our spatial memory. magurie's theory suggests that the more we require a certain skill, that part of the brain either changes shape or increases in activity. birds hippocamii are much larger than humans and they get even bigger when more spatial navigation is required.other research tells us that humans with different skills show differences in brain shape and quantity of dendrites and synapses.
we do not know if people are born with the skills they have or whether they change according to different stimuli in their environment. in this study, maguire studies the change or adapation in london taxi drivers.
to become a london taxi driver you have to pass a test set by the police called the knowledge to get a licence. two years are spent to learn how to get around london. they are considered excellent participants for this study because their environment requires them to have a lot of spatial navigation.
to investigate the differences in the brain, especially in the hippocampus, in lodon taxt drivers, and to establish whether, compared to controls, differences in hippocampal volume would be observed. the study also aimed to further…