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Hippocampus. 2008;18(10):981-4. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20465.

Non-spatial expertise and hippocampal gray matter volume in humans.

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  • 1Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, 12 Queen Square, London, United Kingdom.


Previous work suggests that spatial expertise in licensed London taxi drivers is associated with differences in hippocampal gray matter volume relative to IQ-matched control subjects. Here we examined whether non-spatial expertise is associated with similar hippocampal gray matter effects. We compared medical doctors who, like taxi drivers, acquire a vast amount of knowledge over many years, with IQ-matched control subjects who had no tertiary education. Whole brain analysis of structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) failed to identify any differences in gray matter volume between the groups, including in the hippocampus. Moreover, amount of medical experience that ranged from 0.5 to 22.5 yr did not correlate with gray matter volume in the hippocampus or elsewhere in the brain. We conclude that intensively acquiring a large amount of knowledge over many years is not invariably associated with hippocampal gray matter volume differences. Instead it would seem that hippocampal gray matter volume effects are more likely to be observed when the knowledge acquired concerns a complex and detailed large-scale spatial layout.

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