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Excerpted from The Power of Premonitions by Larry Dossey. Copyright © 2009 by Larry Dossey. Excerpted by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Group.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Macguire and her colleagues performed fMRI scans on 16 London cabbies and found that in all cases they were different from 50 control subjects."

  Larry Dossey
The Power of Premonitions
, Part 1

It's not easy to become licensed to drive a black cab in London. Drivers have to learn "the knowledge," as it's called, which includes up to 25,000 street names and the location of all the major tourist attractions. Cabbies must know not only how to get somewhere, but they must know the most direct route possible. The bewildering labyrinth of streets in a six-mile radius of Charing Cross is particularly daunting. It generally takes three years of training to master "the knowledge," and three-fourths of those who enter taxi school drop out before finishing the course. During their training, something happens to the cabbies. By the time they finish, they no longer have ordinary brains.

Macguire and her colleagues performed fMRI scans on 16 London cabbies and found that in all cases they were different from 50 control subjects. One particular area, the posterior or rear region of the hippocampus, was larger in all the taxi drivers. The longer they were on job, the larger the region became.

When Macguire's findings were featured on BBC News, they resonated with a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic. One individual said that his experience as a cab driver made him better at business decisions -- an acknowledgment of improved intuition and first sight? Another individual described how, when he drove a taxi to pay for college, he experienced a marked increase in mathematical skills, including the ability to visualize complex geometric patterns, shapes, and diagrams. Later in the military he scored very high on special tests for navigation, piloting, and cryptology.

Cynicism surfaced as well. One American said that Macguire's study was clearly not done on New York cab drivers. Another agreed, saying he'd had cab drivers in the U. S. who appeared to have no hippocampus at all.

One individual credited a rude New York City cabbie with a premonition. He described how he was assisting a 90-year-old man who was extremely obese get into the taxi to go to a hospital to have a cataract operation. The surly taxi driver would not assist in getting the elderly man into his taxi or out of it. Even so, he held out his hand for a tip. When the younger man refused, the taxi driver fumed and sped off. It turned out that the surgeon operated on the wrong eye. The young man credits the discourteous taxi driver -- perhaps wrongly -- with an unconscious premonition, doing what he could to prevent the elderly patient from getting to the hospital.

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