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what is the use of the ampersand added to the front of the function call

I read the CodeIgniter source code,found the is_loaded function defined in the Common.php file,as follow
function is_loaded($class = '')

And that function is called in Controller.php file:
$this->load->_base_classes =& is_loaded();
my question is why add the ampersand to is_loaded(),i think it is useless

It creates a reference to that object.

PHP.net - Passing by Reference


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