The London Black Cab is an iconic symbol of the British capital. There are approximately 20,000 of these cabs in circulation throughout the city and they are known for their clean and spacious interiors. What really sets these cabs apart, however, are their drivers. Without the use of GPS, the drivers are able to navigate the maze-like streets of one of the world’s largest and oldest cities.
Black cab drivers in London study between two to four years in order to pass a test called, The Knowledge. To pass, a driver will have memorized over 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks in Central London alone.
How do these drivers do this? The hippocampus is a part of the brain that specializes in both long-term memory and spatial navigation. Through extensive research, scientists discovered that after this complex spatial training to pass The Knowledge, the hippocampus of the drivers had grown significantly. What was even more remarkable was that after drivers retired and were no longer using this information, the hippocampus shrinks back down again.
These studies were important because they demonstrated the flexibility of the brain, or neuroplasticity, that was previously unknown to scientists. This discovery led scientists to new understandings about how the brain can grow and change over time.
Please reflect on and answer the following questions:
- What do these findings make you think about what is possible for you?
- Describe a time when you have felt overwhelmed by what you needed to learn. What did you do to learn the new material? How do you know you were successful?
- What is one thing you are struggling to learn, and what can you do to increase your understanding or ability in this area?