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Memory training changes the brain

Mnemonic technique reconfigures the connection between the brain nerve centers.

Memory all people are different – someone has to record the birthdays of even the closest relatives and friends not to forget them in time to congratulate, and someone once able to memorize one hundred and fifty unfamiliar names. Can one teach the other?


People with a trained memory some connections in the brain become stronger (marked in red), and some, on the contrary, weak (marked blue). (Illustration: Martin Dresler et al. / Neuron 2017.)

Researchers from the University of Nijmegen set up an experiment which involved people with normal memory, and in addition to them, several participants of world Championships competition in memory (World Memory Championships ). The difference between the two became apparent after the test in which they were shown a list with the seventy two words, and you had a little time to remember out as much as possible: if the participants of the Championships were remembered on average 70.8 words, ordinary people and 39.9.

Of course, differences in memory due to characteristics of the structure of the brain; but, in addition, there are special mnemonic techniques that use including those who wants to become a “memory champion”. One of these techniques invented in ancient times – the gist of it is to represent in the imagination of some well-known place or landscape, and “inhabit” it with the things that need to remember. Then numbers, facts, or suggestions of a large text will be associated with a familiar place, and, again imagining it in my mind, it’s easy to remember the right things. This method of memorizing is used now, and those who participated in the “memory Championships,” in a period of six weeks taught this technique to a group of normal participants in the experiment. There was another group which trained short-term memory; finally, the third group just left for six weeks alone.

In an article in the journal Neuron , the authors write that memory as a result of improved only from those who have trained in ancient method, their memory was almost as good as the teachers themselves. However, the researchers were interested not only in predictable cognitive and psychological effects, and what happens in the brain.

It turned out that after learning a mnemonic technique the brain in normal participants also began to work almost as well as their teachers: about two and a half thousand of intracerebral connections, working memory and visual information reconstructed in order to increase memory capacity. Brains remain reset for at least four months – however, this does not mean that then all became as before, just experiment stopped; so the question is, how long the brain is able to save the new setting remains open.

The human brain is generally known for its ductility: in accordance with the tasks he has to perform in it strengthened some connections between nerve centers, weakens others, some areas get information advantage, etc. In this case, it should be emphasized that the restructuring “for memory” was a very ambitious, they happened in a relatively short time, and that such large-scale changes were fairly diligently to work out a mnemonic technique, which, by the way, you can often hear, it is only effective focus and that it can hardly be used in “real life”.

It is possible that it affects other aspects of brain function, but perhaps not – to know how the mnemonics for thinking in General, we need additional experiments.

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