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Ancient memory training technique helps improve a person's recall

Photo: Anyone can become a memory athlete: study
A study has found an ancient memory training technique can dramatically improve a person's recall.

Remembering lists of dozens of names or numbers within minutes is a skill that can be learned by anyone, say international researchers.

A study published in medical journal Neuron found 40 days of daily 30-minute training sessions using a strategic memory improvement technique more than doubled a person's memory capacity.

The 51 individuals who had typical memory skills at the start of the study went from recalling an average of 26 words from a list of 72 to remembering 62.

Further to this, their recall performance remained high four months later without continued training.
The training was based on mnemonics, an ancient memory device known as a 'memory palace' that helps the recall of information, especially in list form.

Using a memory palace involves making an imaginary journey through a place you know well, such as a building like a palace, using each location as a visual prompt to store information.

"After training we see massively increased performance on memory tests," said author Martin Dresler, a neuroscientist at Radboud University in The Netherlands.

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 US memory champion who can memorise 339 digits in five minutes and the order of a shuffled deck of cards in 40.65 seconds.

Scans of 23 memory athletes had previously shown that while there was nothing special about their brains in terms of anatomy, there were differences in brain connectivity.

The scans had detected differences across 2500 connections in the brain compared to those of non-memory athletes.

The most significant differences were found in 25 brain connections typically associated with memory skills.

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

Ass Prof Dresler and his team are still analysing their brain scan data to learn more about the differences in brain connectivity patterns they found and how they affect memory.


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