It has been confirmed that some kinds of what are called memory strategies dramatically improve the performance of memory recall. However, there has been no direct research to examine changes in brain activity associated with the use of the method of loci within individuals. In the present study, using fMRI, we compared brain activations before and after instruction in the method of loci during both the encoding and recall phases. The resulting behavioral data showed that the use of the method of loci significantly increased scores for memory recall. The imaging data showed that encoding after instruction in the method of loci, relative to encoding before it, was associated with signal increases in the right inferior frontal gyrus, bilateral middle frontal gyrus, left fusiform gyrus, and bilateral lingual gyrus/posterior cingulate gyrus. Comparison of recall after instruction in the method of loci with that before it showed significant activation in the left parahippocampal gyrus/retrosplenial cortex/cingulate gyrus/lingual gyrus, left precuneus, left fusiform gyrus, and right lingual gyrus/cingulate gyrus. The present study demonstrated the changes in brain activation pattern associated with the use of the method of loci; left fusiform and lingual activity was associated with both the encoding and recall phases, bilateral prefrontal activity with the encoding phase, and activity of the posterior part of the parahippocampal gyrus, retrosplenial cortex, and precuneus with the recall phase. These findings suggest that brain networks mediating episodic encoding and retrieval vary with how individuals encode the same stimuli.
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