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You Really Are What You Know 188

jd writes "There has been research for some time showing that London cab driver brains differ from other people's, with considerable enlargement of those areas dealing with spacial relationships and navigation. Follow-up work showed it wasn't simply a product of driving a lot (PDF). However, up until now it has been disputed as to whether the brain structure led people to become London cabbies or whether the brain structure changed as a result of their intensive training (which requires rote memorization of essentially the entire street map of one of the largest and least-organized cities in the world). Well, this latest study answers that. MRI scans before and after the training show that the regions of the brain substantially grow as a result of the training, and they're quite normal beforehand. The practical upshot of this research is that — even for adult brains, which aren't supposed to change much — what you learn structurally changes your brain. Significantly."
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You Really Are What You Know

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  • Meditation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Laxori666 ( 748529 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @06:41PM (#38320180) Homepage

    Anyone who meditates effectively for any length of time can attest to the fact that the brain can change quite dramatically as a result of what you do with it. Things that I did not even know were possible have happened to me as a result of it, and not in a subtle way, either.

  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @06:45PM (#38320242)
    Along the same lines, do some types of jobs lead to stable equilibrium configurations of some sort (which cannot be easily escaped)? For example, does learning to take orders and being a good employee reconfigure the brain in different ways than being an entrepreneur and making up your own decisions? Is it possible to become the latter if you've already spent 20 years being the former?
  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @07:00PM (#38320448) Homepage
    iTo navigate a city looks like it was planned by throwing spaghetti at a wall and calling it a map.

    Nevertheless, London is pretty understandable if you have to go there more than a few times. While I wouldn't claim to know all of it well, I know certain sections of it fairly well. It's fun to use your mental model of where things are to try and find a new route that brings you out close to your destination (probably best not tried if you are pressed for time). It doesn't always work but can lead to new discoveries.

    When I drive in cities that use the grid model, I find myself bored. They are far too predictable and lose the power to surprise and entertain. It also is mildly irritating that there are no true short cuts as there are so few diagonals. The distance between any two points is always an integral multiple of "a block". How is that any fun?
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday December 09, 2011 @07:08PM (#38320550) Journal

    " Even for adult brains, which aren't supposed to change much"

    How is it that this is still passed around as fact. This idea is incredibly outdated.

    Absolutely. There's a recent study, done at Mass Gen, that shows adults who practice mindfulness medication, such as tai chi, benefit from measurable physical changes to their brain in as little as 8 weeks of 20min/day meditation. Even older adults. And these changes occur to the regions of the brain that are associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and dealing with stress.

    I teach Chinese martial arts, including tai chi chuan, and love to point this out to my students.

    By the way, tai chi is really good for tech types like programmers. It's fun and the martial arts aspects are extremely cool. You also get to use swords (long swords (jian) and broadswords (dao)) as well as staffs and spears. Tai chi also puts lead in your pencil, if you catch my drift.

  • Re:Meditation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Laxori666 ( 748529 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @08:01PM (#38321076) Homepage
    I do different things now than when I started. First it was just following the breath 20min/day... then doing a technique called Mahasi-style Noting... at some point a shift occurred which made it far, far easier to concentrate on whatever I wanted and for however long (I basically am never bored anymore as there is always something interesting going on that I can observe). If you'd like to get into it more I invite you to introduce yourself on the Dharma Overground [].

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.