Check the volume
Volume changes in the brain can tell us about disease and ageing
Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) is a type of analysis applied to MRI images when researching certain neurological and psychiatric conditions. It can detect the reduction of hippocampus volume that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease and depression, as well as the thinning of the cerebral cortex that occurs as a normal part of ageing.
Memory researchers in London have been investigating the changes that occur in taxi drivers’ brains as a result of learning. To qualify for the job, London’s taxi drivers have to learn ‘the Knowledge’ (every street name, landmark and direction of traffic flow in a six-mile radius of Charing Cross) so they can navigate the city effectively. Using VBM, the researchers found that those who qualified had an increased volume of grey matter in the hippocampus, a part of the brain known to be involved in generating maps and forming spatial memories. They have also found that the longer a person has been driving a taxi, the larger their hippocampus.Lead image:
Isaac Bordas/Flickr CC BY