Training memory is not so different from training your body. While avid gym goers can reach a point where they can dead lift 500 pounds, so memory athletes can remember 500 digits in five minutes. At least this is what a new study suggests namely that anybody can train their minds to break unthinkable limits. This superpower is just a matter of learning.
Whenever most people hear that a champion managed to memorize 164 names of as many people in just 16 minutes, they would attribute this success to an innate ability. However, science begs to differ. According to a new study, anybody who practices memorizing exercises on a daily basis can recreate such an impressive performance (at least during their best days).
On Thursday, Neuron published a new research paper that proved that anybody could become memory athletes. In the process of turning into one, people can also experience brain changes at large scale. The first part of the study wanted to discover brain differences between memory athletes and normal people. They paired each champion with a participant of the same gender, age, and IQ. They performed anatomical scans and fMRIs both during rest and memory effort.
The conclusion was that both parties had similar brain regions. On the other hand, what differed was the brain connectivity during passive and active states, which where much stronger in champions. Thus, researchers concluded that there was no special hardware that made people champions. The second part of the study involved 51 participants. None of them participated in memory training before. They were divided into the main experimental group and two control groups.
The experimental group trained their memories for half an hour a day for six weeks. They learned how to link new information to familiar places. The active control group performed memory tasks for six weeks. However, these exercises do not affect long-term memory. The passive control group received no treatment.
The results showed that the two control groups experienced no improvements. However, the experimental group recorded remarkable performance. While the structure of their brains remained intact, scientists noticed more powerful connection patterns to the resemblance of memory athletes. This change was persistent both when subjects were passive and when they performed memory exercises. This experiment showed that learning is similar to training our bodies. Memory exercises order the brain to adapt to difficult tasks.
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