Changes in brain organization

[From Bill Powers (2003.12.26.0651 MST)]

A friend of mine in Albuquerque send me this excerpt from a BBC site -- the
URL may be a little garbled.

I almost decided to donate my brain to this research, but perhaps I'll wait
until Monday.

Best,

Bill P>
===========================================================================:

···

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/email/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3096
572.stm

Clue to cab drivers' brainpower

  Key changes in the brain enable taxi drivers to remember the best
routes, a study suggests.

  Researchers in the United States have found that driving can trigger
certain cells into action.

  These cells or neurons are activated in areas of the brain associated
with learning and memory.

  Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers said this may explain why
taxi drivers can remember even the most obscure routes.

  Brainpower

  Dr Michael Kahana of Brandeis University and colleagues studied seven
people while they played a taxi-based computer game.

  As part of the game, the players had to drive around a virtual town,
search for passengers and deliver them to various shops.

  As they did so, the researchers measured the activity of key neurons in
their brains.

  They found that neurons in the hippocampus responded to particular
locations.

  The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

  They found that neurons in the parahippocampal cortex responded more to
landmarks.

  Tests on rats have shown similar results.

  "Cells throughout the frontal and temporal lobes responded to the
subjects' navigational goals and to conjunctions of place, goal and view,"
they said.

  Other studies have also shown that regular driving can affect the brain.

  Bigger brains

  Three years ago, researchers at the Institute of Neurology in London
showed that cab drivers' grey matter enlarges and adapts to help them
store a detailed mental map of the city.

  Taxi drivers given brain scans by scientists had a larger hippocampus
compared with other people.

  The scientists also found part of the hippocampus grew larger as the
taxi drivers spent more time in the job.

  Dr Eleanor Maguire, who led that study, described these latest findings
as interesting.

  "It is a very interesting paper whose findings seem to be entirely in
line with what we have shown with our previous work, namely that the
hippocampus is crucial for navigation, from rats to humans," she told BBC
News Online.

  "As far as I know, this is the first study in humans to look at the
response of individual neurons in the hippocampus and other areas during
interactive navigation."

  She added: "It is very encouraging that the data sit so well with ours."

  In London, black-cab drivers can spend years training before they are
allowed to get behind the wheel of a taxi.

  In order to drive a traditional black cab in London drivers have to gain
"the knowledge" - an intimate acquaintance with the myriad of streets in a
six-mile radius of Charing Cross.

  It can take around three years of hard training, and three-quarters of
those who embark on the course drop out.

___________________________________________________________

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/cgi-bin/emailthisstory/emailthisstory.pl

Cab drivers' grey matter enlarges and adapts to help them store a detailed
mental map of the city, according to research.

Taxi drivers given brain scans by scientists at University College London
had a larger hippocampus compared with other people. This is a part of the
brain associated with navigation in birds and animals.

The scientists also found part of the hippocampus grew larger as the taxi
drivers spent more time in the job. "There seems to be a definite
relationship between the navigating they do as a taxi driver and the brain
changes," said Dr Eleanor Maguire, who led the research team.

She said: "The hippocampus has changed its structure to accommodate their
huge amount of navigating experience."

  The research confirms something which London's black-cab drivers have
suspected for some time - learning their way around the capital is a
brain-straining feat.

In order to drive a traditional black cab in London drivers have to gain
"the knowledge" - an intimate acquaintance with the myriad of streets in a
six-mile radius of Charing Cross. It can take around three years of hard
training, and three-quarters of those who embark on the course drop out,
according to Malcolm Linskey, manager of London taxi school Knowledge
Point.

"There are 400 prescribed runs which you can be examined on but in
reality, you can be asked to join any two points," he told BBC News Online.

Click here for your experiences of 'brainy' cabbies.

"Most people learn by visualisation but we do have a few tricks which we
teach them, for example 'little apples grow quickly' gives you the order of
the theatres on the north side of Shaftesbury Avenue: Lyric, Apollo,
Gielgud, Queen's."

But 'the knowledge' is definitely worth learning - black cab drivers are
self-employed can earn significantly more than minicab drivers. A black cab
fare from Shepherd's Bush to Heathrow might cost �50, compared with �28 for
a minicab.

Brain changes

The hippocampus is at the front of the brain and was examined in Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans on 16 London cabbies.

The tests found the only area of the taxi drivers' brains that was
different from the 50 other "control" subjects was the left and right
hippocampus. Dr Maguire said: "One particular region of the hippocampus,
the posterior or back, was bigger in the taxi drivers.

"The front of the hippocampus was smaller in the taxi drivers compared to
the controls.

"This is very interesting because we now see there can be structural
changes in healthy human brains."

The posterior hippocampus was also more developed in taxi drivers who had
been in the career for 40 years than in those who had been driving for a
shorter period.

David Cohen from the London Cab Drivers' Club said he was surprised by the
findings: "I never noticed part of my brain growing - it makes you wonder
what happened to the rest of it.

"You do have to have a retentive memory but you also need a placid
temperament to drive in London traffic," he added.

Parkinson's disease

The UCL researchers think evidence that the brain is able to change
physically according to the way it is used could have important
implications for people with brain damage or diseases such as Parkinson's.

Dr Maguire said: "It has long been thought that if there's damage to the
brain there's only a limited amount of plasticity in an adult that can help
them recover.

"Now direct things in the environment, like navigation, appear to show
changes in the brain. So we could in the future see some rehabilitation
programmes that use that kind of knowledge."

Dr Maguire's research is published in the US scientific journal,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Click here to read about your experiences of 'brainy' cabbies.

  Do you think taxi drivers are smarter than your average motorist? We want
to hear about your experiences of cabbies' brain power.

  Send us your comments

__________________________________________

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/371698.stm

Why size mattered for Einstein

Einstein's brain: Pickled perfection

The secret of Einstein's immense intellect may finally have been uncovered
- one area of his brain was significantly different than most people's.

  Albert Einstein, who discovered the theory of relativity, died in 1955,
aged 76. His brain was then removed and preserved for scientific research.

Scientists at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada compared the shape and
size Einstein's brain with those of 35 men and 56 women with average
intelligence.

They think their findings may well explain his genius for mathematical and
spatial thinking.

In general, Einstein's brain was the same as all the others except in one
particular area - the region responsible for mathematical thought and the
ability to think in terms of space and movement.

  Extensive development of this region meant that Einstein's brain was 15%
wider than the other brains studied.

Uniquely, Einstein's brain also lacked a groove that normally runs through
part of this area. The researchers suggest that its absence may have
allowed the neurons to communicate much more easily.

"This unusual brain anatomy may explain why Einstein thought the way he
did," said Professor Sandra Witelson, who led the research published in the
Lancet.

"Einstein's own description of his scientific thinking was that words did
not seem to play a role. Instead he saw more or less clear images of a
visual kind," she said.

  The idea that differing abilities are determined by physical differences
in the structure of the brain is currently of great interest to scientists.

"To say there is a definite link is one bridge too far, at the moment,"
said Professor Laurie Hall, a brain imaging expert from the University of
Cambridge.

"So far the case isn't proven. But magnetic resonance and other new
technologies are allowing us to start to probe those very questions."

The researchers hope that the study will encourage the donation of brain
specimens from other gifted individuals.

[From Rick Marken (2003.12.26.1000)]

Bill Powers (2003.12.26.0651 MST)--

A friend of mine in Albuquerque send me this excerpt from a BBC site
-- the
URL may be a little garbled.

I almost decided to donate my brain to this research, but perhaps I'll
wait
until Monday.

I felt my brain shrinking as I read it. Proof, I suppose, that these
researchers have it right.

Best

Rick

=======================================================================
====:

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/email/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/
health/3096
572.stm

Clue to cab drivers' brainpower

  Key changes in the brain enable taxi drivers to remember the best
routes, a study suggests.

  Researchers in the United States have found that driving can
trigger
certain cells into action.

  These cells or neurons are activated in areas of the brain
associated
with learning and memory.

  Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers said this may
explain why
taxi drivers can remember even the most obscure routes.

  Brainpower

  Dr Michael Kahana of Brandeis University and colleagues studied
seven
people while they played a taxi-based computer game.

  As part of the game, the players had to drive around a virtual
town,
search for passengers and deliver them to various shops.

  As they did so, the researchers measured the activity of key
neurons in
their brains.

  They found that neurons in the hippocampus responded to particular
locations.

  The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

  They found that neurons in the parahippocampal cortex responded
more to
landmarks.

  Tests on rats have shown similar results.

  "Cells throughout the frontal and temporal lobes responded to the
subjects' navigational goals and to conjunctions of place, goal and
view,"
they said.

  Other studies have also shown that regular driving can affect the
brain.

  Bigger brains

  Three years ago, researchers at the Institute of Neurology in
London
showed that cab drivers' grey matter enlarges and adapts to help them
store a detailed mental map of the city.

  Taxi drivers given brain scans by scientists had a larger
hippocampus
compared with other people.

  The scientists also found part of the hippocampus grew larger as
the
taxi drivers spent more time in the job.

  Dr Eleanor Maguire, who led that study, described these latest
findings
as interesting.

  "It is a very interesting paper whose findings seem to be entirely
in
line with what we have shown with our previous work, namely that the
hippocampus is crucial for navigation, from rats to humans," she
told BBC
News Online.

  "As far as I know, this is the first study in humans to look at the
response of individual neurons in the hippocampus and other areas
during
interactive navigation."

  She added: "It is very encouraging that the data sit so well with
ours."

  In London, black-cab drivers can spend years training before they
are
allowed to get behind the wheel of a taxi.

  In order to drive a traditional black cab in London drivers have
to gain
"the knowledge" - an intimate acquaintance with the myriad of
streets in a
six-mile radius of Charing Cross.

  It can take around three years of hard training, and
three-quarters of
those who embark on the course drop out.

___________________________________________________________

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/cgi-bin/emailthisstory/emailthisstory.pl

Cab drivers' grey matter enlarges and adapts to help them store a
detailed
mental map of the city, according to research.

Taxi drivers given brain scans by scientists at University College
London
had a larger hippocampus compared with other people. This is a part
of the
brain associated with navigation in birds and animals.

The scientists also found part of the hippocampus grew larger as the
taxi
drivers spent more time in the job. "There seems to be a definite
relationship between the navigating they do as a taxi driver and the
brain
changes," said Dr Eleanor Maguire, who led the research team.

She said: "The hippocampus has changed its structure to accommodate
their
huge amount of navigating experience."

  The research confirms something which London's black-cab drivers
have
suspected for some time - learning their way around the capital is a
brain-straining feat.

In order to drive a traditional black cab in London drivers have to
gain
"the knowledge" - an intimate acquaintance with the myriad of streets
in a
six-mile radius of Charing Cross. It can take around three years of
hard
training, and three-quarters of those who embark on the course drop
out,
according to Malcolm Linskey, manager of London taxi school Knowledge
Point.

"There are 400 prescribed runs which you can be examined on but in
reality, you can be asked to join any two points," he told BBC News
Online.

Click here for your experiences of 'brainy' cabbies.

"Most people learn by visualisation but we do have a few tricks
which we
teach them, for example 'little apples grow quickly' gives you the
order of
the theatres on the north side of Shaftesbury Avenue: Lyric, Apollo,
Gielgud, Queen's."

But 'the knowledge' is definitely worth learning - black cab drivers
are
self-employed can earn significantly more than minicab drivers. A
black cab
fare from Shepherd's Bush to Heathrow might cost �50, compared with
�28 for
a minicab.

Brain changes

The hippocampus is at the front of the brain and was examined in
Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans on 16 London cabbies.

The tests found the only area of the taxi drivers' brains that was
different from the 50 other "control" subjects was the left and right
hippocampus. Dr Maguire said: "One particular region of the
hippocampus,
the posterior or back, was bigger in the taxi drivers.

"The front of the hippocampus was smaller in the taxi drivers
compared to
the controls.

"This is very interesting because we now see there can be structural
changes in healthy human brains."

The posterior hippocampus was also more developed in taxi drivers
who had
been in the career for 40 years than in those who had been driving
for a
shorter period.

David Cohen from the London Cab Drivers' Club said he was surprised
by the
findings: "I never noticed part of my brain growing - it makes you
wonder
what happened to the rest of it.

"You do have to have a retentive memory but you also need a placid
temperament to drive in London traffic," he added.

Parkinson's disease

The UCL researchers think evidence that the brain is able to change
physically according to the way it is used could have important
implications for people with brain damage or diseases such as
Parkinson's.

Dr Maguire said: "It has long been thought that if there's damage to
the
brain there's only a limited amount of plasticity in an adult that
can help
them recover.

"Now direct things in the environment, like navigation, appear to
show
changes in the brain. So we could in the future see some
rehabilitation
programmes that use that kind of knowledge."

Dr Maguire's research is published in the US scientific journal,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Click here to read about your experiences of 'brainy' cabbies.

  Do you think taxi drivers are smarter than your average motorist?
We want
to hear about your experiences of cabbies' brain power.

  Send us your comments

__________________________________________

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/371698.stm

Why size mattered for Einstein

Einstein's brain: Pickled perfection

The secret of Einstein's immense intellect may finally have been
uncovered
- one area of his brain was significantly different than most
people's.

  Albert Einstein, who discovered the theory of relativity, died in
1955,
aged 76. His brain was then removed and preserved for scientific
research.

Scientists at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada compared the
shape and
size Einstein's brain with those of 35 men and 56 women with average
intelligence.

They think their findings may well explain his genius for
mathematical and
spatial thinking.

In general, Einstein's brain was the same as all the others except
in one
particular area - the region responsible for mathematical thought and
the
ability to think in terms of space and movement.

  Extensive development of this region meant that Einstein's brain
was 15%
wider than the other brains studied.

Uniquely, Einstein's brain also lacked a groove that normally runs
through
part of this area. The researchers suggest that its absence may have
allowed the neurons to communicate much more easily.

"This unusual brain anatomy may explain why Einstein thought the way
he
did," said Professor Sandra Witelson, who led the research published
in the
Lancet.

"Einstein's own description of his scientific thinking was that
words did
not seem to play a role. Instead he saw more or less clear images of a
visual kind," she said.

  The idea that differing abilities are determined by physical
differences
in the structure of the brain is currently of great interest to
scientists.

"To say there is a definite link is one bridge too far, at the
moment,"
said Professor Laurie Hall, a brain imaging expert from the
University of
Cambridge.

"So far the case isn't proven. But magnetic resonance and other new
technologies are allowing us to start to probe those very questions."

The researchers hope that the study will encourage the donation of
brain
specimens from other gifted individuals.

Richard S. Marken
marken@mindreadings.com
Home 310 474-0313
Cell 310 729-1400