Yes, the mind works just like A MUSCLE! I recently read that when you learn new things, you are continuing to expand connections in the brain. When you stop learning, your only option is to use what you already know. At that point, your brain begins the process of decay. There was a very interesting study done with London taxi drivers by Katherine Woollett and Eleanor Maguire updated last year that examined the increased grey matter to the back of the hippocampus in the brain. The hippocampus is connected with spatial awareness and memory.This change was attributed to the time spent on memorizing the 4,000 plus routes needed to get around London’s street and the minute by minute adjustments that were needed based on traffic patterns.
In order to be considered for a cabbie position, a candidate needs to know “the location of every street within six miles of Charing Cross – all 25,000 of the capital’s arteries, veins and capillaries. They also need to know the locations of 20,000 landmarks – museums, police stations, theatres, clubs, and more – and 320 routes that connect everything up. It can take two to four years to learn everything.”
To earn the right to be a cabbie they are quizzed on the best route between two locations. They cannot bring an information with them, no helpful tips, books or papers; only their mind. “They even have to narrate the details of their journey, complete with passed landmarks, road names, junctions, turns and maybe even traffic lights. Only after successfully doing this, several times over, can they earn a cab driver’s license.” stated the Discover Magazine article reviewing the research. Those applying for this position have been memorizing what has been coined as The Knowledge since 1865! While the cabbies are active in this career, their hippocampus is significantly larger than people in other jobs, and shrinks down to normal size when they retire.
So how’s this relevant to what you’re doing? If you’re in a position where the tasks are not changing much, choose to learn new information – pick a new technology or related one and keep expanding those grey cells. If you’re not currently employed, keep your mind active by learning. Pick up a new hobby, start up a new interest. Keeping your mind active and growing is crucial to those in the field of IT, where change is the only constant.