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Routes to remembering: the brains behind superior memory

Nature Neuroscience volume 6, pages 9095 (2003) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Why do some people have superior memory capabilities? We addressed this age-old question by examining individuals renowned for outstanding memory feats in forums such as the World Memory Championships. Using neuropsychological measures, as well as structural and functional brain imaging, we found that superior memory was not driven by exceptional intellectual ability or structural brain differences. Rather, we found that superior memorizers used a spatial learning strategy, engaging brain regions such as the hippocampus that are critical for memory and for spatial memory in particular. These results illustrate how functional neuroimaging might prove valuable in delineating the neural substrates of mnemonic techniques, which could broaden the scope for memory improvement in the general population and the memory-impaired.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust and the University of London Central Research Fund. We thank D. Passingham, U. Noppeney, C. Good, T. Singer, J. Winston and P. Abbott for assistance and advice. We are also grateful for the interest and participation of all the superior memorizers and control volunteers.

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Affiliations

  1. Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London, 12 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK

    • Eleanor A. Maguire
  2. Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK

    • Elizabeth R. Valentine
    •  & John M. Wilding
  3. Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, Wessex Neurological Centre, Southampton General Hospital and Department of Psychology University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

    • Narinder Kapur

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eleanor A. Maguire.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn988