Brain Waves: Alzheimer’s Research On London Cabbies Is Surprising

By Stephen M

The University College London and Alzheimer’s Research UK are delving into Alzheimer’s disease aimed at alleviating the struggles of patience. The new research will rely on cabbies as the principal resource for the study. The researchers believe that the brain power of cabbies that helps them to remember various streets easily can be significant clinically in mitigating the risks of the disease.

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With their extraordinary knowledge of London Streets, cabbies may have something special that can offer some protection against Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers believe that any success could help manage late-stage patients and persons seeking to lessen its impact.

Because they’ve been driving for years, cabbies unconsciously absorb the entire map of London streets and easily navigate through the streets without GPS. This brilliancy of their brain is what the study seeks to explore. The exceptional brain gain is partly thanks to the rigorous “The Knowledge” test they undertake.

Studies have found that cabbies usually have enlarged brain hippocampus due to putting it into use every day. Hippocampus is responsible for short-term and spatial memory in humans.

What this means for Alzheimer’s patients

The hippocampus is the first casualty of Alzheimer’s disease effects, resulting in patients’ short memory and forgetfulness. So, if that of cabbies continues to enlarge throughout their years of service, then there’s something special that could be studied and replicated in others.

In an interview, the research lead, Prof. Hugo Spiers, said there might be something very protective about the daily use of your spatial knowledge like cabbies do. “It may not necessarily be spatial, but just using your brain rather than Google Maps might actually help, in the same way as physical fitness is important,” he added.

Previous research has proved that animals like pigeons, voles, squirrels, etc., that require extensive spatial knowledge of the terrain undergo hippocampus expansion.

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How Alzheimer’s Disease starts

As we age, the brain begins to weaken due to protein interference with neurons firing. This results in the loss of brain tissues and hinders the function of the hippocampus.

Spiers has hired 30 London cabbies, who are hooked up to MRI machines and drive around their routes. Researchers can obtain real-time data on the activities within the hippocampus.