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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: The Brain of a Cabbie
8 December 2011 12:00 pm
London taxi drivers aren't like the rest of us. Researchers have known for more than a decade that these elite cabbies—who train for years to master "the Knowledge," a mental map of 25,000 streets—have a larger than average rear hippocampus, a brain region linked to learning and navigation. What scientists didn't know was whether the drivers grew bigger hippocampi as they trained or whether they had big ones (and thus an innate navigation advantage) to begin with. So a team followed three groups—trainees who successfully acquired the Knowledge and became cabbies, trainees who failed to qualify, and a control group of non-taxi drivers—over 4 years, testing them and scanning their brains before, during, and after training. They found that the brains of qualifying trainees were no different from those of nonqualifying trainees or non-taxi drivers before beginning training. But as the cabbies learned the Knowledge, their hippocampi grew (see the progression from left to right), literally changing their minds, the researchers report online today in Current Biology. The hippocampi of unsuccessful trainees stayed the same throughout, which could suggest that successful cabbies really do have an innate advantage—their brains are more malleable than others'.
See more ScienceShots.