You Can Rewire Your Brain to Have a Super Memory

Mar 12, 2017, 01:08
You Can Rewire Your Brain to Have a Super Memory

The memory champions could recall about 71 words on average, while untrained people could only remember about 40.

Assistant Professor Dresler and his colleagues also studied the brains of their participants and found similar brain connectivity patterns to those seen in "memory athletes", like that of Nelson Dellis - a four-time U.S. memory champion who can memorise 339 digits in five minutes and the order of a shuffled deck of cards in 40.65 seconds. Dresler and colleagues, motivated in part by co-author and professional memory trainer Boris Konrad, chose to focus on elite memory athletes who utilize memorization techniques to compete at highly specific tasks such as memorizing decks of cards or lines of binary digits in minutes.

Neuroscientists studied the brains of memory champions who are good at memorizing vast quantities of information.

There have been studies focused on determining whether memory training methods are effective, but there is not enough data on how the brain changes when these training mechanisms are present. Memory also seems to be correlated with the medial temporal lobe and others; part of this was discovered while learning on how to deal with Alzheimer's disease and how it progresses to other regions of the brain. He used structural MRI to measure differences in sizes. This study shows, once again, that we are the only ones responsible for taking care of our brain and body.

"You can see considerable increases in memory in one afternoon", konrad noted. This collection of closely cooperating brain structures, called the resting-state network, has been found to be involved in memory. A subset of 25 connections most strongly differentiated athletes from those with typical memory skills.

The memory athletes were not born with these extraordinary memory skills. Stark was particularly impressed by the study's clever experimental design, which he expects to be adopted by researchers in other domains.

Dresler noted: "They, without a single exception, trained for months and years using mnemonic strategies to achieve these high levels of performance". The third group got no training at all. The researchers scanned participants' brains before and after training.

Researchers hypothesize that mnemonic strategies are effective because they rely on visuospatial memory and navigation, rather than purely remembering data. The short-term memory group did practices, such as remembering sequences, similar to the game Concentration. Meanwhile the passive control group received no training.

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In this study, the strategy Dresler chose was memory of loci training, which is employed by most world champion memory athletes. Then you just associate what you are trying to remember with one landmark in each place on your routine.

Those who trained using method of loci showed substantial improvement in their ability to recall lists of words.

Individuals in training groups received six weeks of training for 30 minutes a day.

To recall the memorized items, ancient and modern memory champions alike need only walk through their memory palace, observing in their mind's eye the items they earlier deposited along the path. Those with no training recalled seven more words. But the other two groups never showed any significant improvement in memory. Four months later, only those with strategic training continued to show substantial gains, still recalling over 22 more words than prior to training.

"This suggests that a six- or eight-minute snapshot of a person's functional connectivity has some value in predicting how they perform in the world", said in a news release. They wanted to know whether these highly skilled practitioners exhibit noticeable brain changes and how those changes occur. The more the trainees' connectivity resembled the pattern observed in athletes, the more words they recalled. In general, regions toward the front of the brain strengthened in connectivity, while connectivity in the back weakened.

Compared to regular people, memory athletes have stronger connections (orange) with the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (left yellow sphere) and weaker connections with the angular gyrus (right yellow sphere).

"It makes sense that these connections would be affected", said Ass Prof Dresler.