Alzheimer’s Disease Research Carried out on London Taxi Drivers Provides Intriguing Conclusions

As one of the most worrisome conditions known to man, Alzheimer’s Disease is a growing talking point. As more awareness is made about the condition, people are taking more notice of how unique this condition is. Studies are going on all the time to try and better understand this unique, often terrifying condition. A recent study carried out by the University College London has been looking into dealing with the struggles with patience – or a lack of – that many patients suffer from.

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This new study, though, will look at one group of people only: taxi drivers from London. Driving a cab in London is an immensely pressure-driven job, and for many, it is a job that requires patience to the extreme. The research team behind this believes that the brain power utilized by taxi drivers to memorize locations in a city like London could be very useful in deciphering Alzheimer’s questions.

Taxi drivers are often seen as fonts of knowledge due to their ability to master geography and street names. In a city the size of London, that is hugely impressive. Cabbies tend to take in massive amounts of information about London and its streets – all without having to use a GPS. This is why they take “The Knowledge” exam, to ensure that they are capable of driving a cap without needing third-party hardware.

Studies in the past have found that cabbies tend to have enlarged hippocampus due to the fact they use this part of their brain for hours every day. Spatial memory and short-term memory are often some of the most severe victims of Alzheimer’s. Understanding what makes a cabbie’s brain tick, then, could be fundamental to overcoming this problem down the line.

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What has the study found?

Given the hippocampus is the first part of the brain to be impacted by Alzheimer’s, this research plan does have significant merit. The hope is that if we can understand what forces cabbies to have such large hippocampus, can this be used to help alleviate the strain and tension for patients with this condition?

The belief by Prof. Hugo Spiers, the research lead, is that there must be something about the way cabbies use this part of the brain that makes it so resistant to decay. Much like keeping physically fit can keep our bodies in good condition for longer, might keeping this part of the brain busy be useful for prolonging resistance to conditions like Alzheimer’s?

That is the hope, anyway. The thirty cabbies taking part in this program, then, might provide us with further illuminating details about the hippocampus. If we can work this part of the equation out, it might make one day overcoming Alzheimer’s – or at least dulling the effects – a more realistic prospect.