Durable memories and efficient neural coding through mnemonic training using the method of loci

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Science Advances  03 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 10, eabc7606
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc7606


Mnemonic techniques, such as the method of loci, can powerfully boost memory. We compared memory athletes ranked among the world’s top 50 in memory sports to mnemonics-naïve controls. In a second study, participants completed a 6-week memory training, working memory training, or no intervention. Behaviorally, memory training enhanced durable, longer-lasting memories. Functional magnetic resonance imaging during encoding and recognition revealed task-based activation decreases in lateral prefrontal, as well as in parahippocampal and retrosplenial cortices in both memory athletes and participants after memory training, partly associated with better performance after 4 months. This was complemented by hippocampal-neocortical coupling during consolidation, which was stronger the more durable memories participants formed. Our findings advance knowledge on how mnemonic training boosts durable memory formation through decreased task-based activation and increased consolidation thereafter. This is in line with conceptual accounts of neural efficiency and highlights a complex interplay of neural processes critical for extraordinary memory.

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