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Neuroreport. 2012 Oct 24;23(15):885-8. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328359317e.

Exploring anterograde associative memory in London taxi drivers.

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  • 1Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK.


London taxi drivers are renowned for their navigation ability, spending a number of years acquiring 'The Knowledge' of London's complex layout and having to pass stringent examinations to obtain an operating licence. In several studies, this navigation skill has been associated with increased posterior but also decreased anterior hippocampal grey matter volume. Neuropsychologically, gain and loss has also been documented in taxi drivers; while very skilled at navigation in London, they are significantly poorer than controls at learning and recalling new object-location associations. Here we tested a group of London taxi drivers and matched control participants on this object-location associations task, while also subjecting them to a battery of challenging anterograde associative memory tests involving verbal, visual and auditory material both within and across modalities. Our aim was to assess whether their difficulty in previous studies reflected a general problem with associative memory, or was restricted to the spatial domain. We replicated previous findings of poor learning and memory of object-location associations. By contrast, their performance on the other anterograde associative memory tasks was comparable with controls. This resolves an outstanding question in the memory profile of London taxi drivers following hippocampal plasticity, and underlines the close relationship between space and the hippocampus.

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