Neural evidence for the use of Digit-Image mnemonic in a superior memorist: An fMRI study

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Some superior memorists demonstrated exceptional memory for reciting a large body of information. The underlying neural correlates, however, are seldom addressed. C.L., the current holder ofGuinness World Recordfor reciting 67,890 digits in π, participated in this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. Thirteen participants without any mnemonics training were included as controls. Our previous studies suggested that C.L. used a digit-image mnemonic in studying and recalling lists of digits, namely associating 2-digit groups of “00” to “99” with images and generating vivid stories out of them (Hu et al., 2009). Thus, 2-digit condition was included, with 1-digit numbers and letters as control conditions. We hypothesized that 2-digit condition in C.L. should elicit the strongest activity in the brain regions which are associated with his mnemonic. Functional MRI results revealed that bilateral frontal poles (FPs, BA10), left superior parietal lobule (SPL), left premotor cortex (PMC), and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), were more engaged in both the study and recall phase of 2-digit condition for C.L. relative to controls. Moreover, the left middle/inferior frontal gyri (M/IFG) and intraparietal sulci (IPS) were less engaged in the study phase of 2-digit condition for C.L. (vs. controls). These results suggested that C.L. relied more on brain regions that are associated with episodic memory other than verbal rehearsal while he used his mnemonic strategies. This study supported theoretical accounts of restructured cognitive mechanisms for the acquisition of superior memory performance.




Yin, L. J., Lou, Y. T., Fan, M. X., Wang, Z. X., & Hu, Y. (2015). Neural evidence for the use of Digit-Image mnemonic in a superior memorist: An fMRI study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9(MAR).

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