The London cab driver study

The London taxi driver study is a seminal study from two decades ago on how learning changes our brain.

Taxi drivers in London – in the absence of Google maps – had to memorize the London map to be able to navigate to wherever the passenger wants to go. This training took two years on average was colloquially called “being on The Knowledge.”

As part of the study, researchers analyzed the brains of London cab drivers relative to those in the “control.” And, they found that the hippocampus – the area of our brain that controls spatial memory – was significantly larger in taxi drivers.

The led to a famous hypothesis“It seems that there is a capacity for local plastic change in the structure of the healthy adult human brain in response to environmental demands.” Over time, the researchers led by Prof Eleanor Maguire further corroborated this hypothesis with more “before and after” studies of London taxi drivers.

Put simply, what we learn has the power to change the structure of our brain.

Always a good reminder that we are more malleable and adaptable than we think.