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Older news items (pre-2010) brought over from the old website

Blind people are 'serial memory' whizzes

In a demonstration of the benefits of mental training, a study tested the memory of 19 congenitally blind individuals and individually matched sighted controls. Those who were blind recalled more words than the sighted, but their greatest superiority was the ability to remember longer word sequences according to their original order. This is probably a result of blind people’s everyday reliance on serial-memory strategies to identify otherwise indistinguishable objects. The finding that the blind showed a better memory for all of the words regardless of where they fell (rather than the first and last word advantage more typically found) suggests that the key to their success may lie in representing item lists as word chains, perhaps by generating associations between adjacent items.

Brain Imaging Identifies Best Memorization Strategies

Why do some people remember things better than others? An imaging study has revealed that the brain regions activated when learning vary depending on the strategy adopted. The study involved 29 right-handed, healthy young adults, ages 18-31, all of whom had normal or corrected-to-normal vision and reported no significant neurological history. Participants were given interacting object pair images (such as a turkey seated atop a horse and a banana positioned in the back of a dump truck) and told to study them in anticipation of a memory test. Earlier studies had indicated that while individuals use a variety of strategies to help them memorize new information, the following four strategies were the main strategies:

1) A visual inspection strategy in which participants carefully studied the visual appearance of objects.

2) A verbal elaboration strategy in which individuals constructed sentences about the objects to remember them.

3) A mental imagery strategy in which participants formed interactive mental images of the objects.

4) A memory retrieval strategy in which they thought about the meaning of the objects and/or personal memories associated with the objects.

Both visual inspection and verbal elaboration resulted in improved recall. Imaging revealed that people who often used verbal elaboration had greater activity in a network of regions that included prefrontal regions associated with controlled verbal processing compared to people who used this strategy less frequently. People who often used a visual inspection strategy had greater activity in a network of regions that included an extrastriate region associated with object processing compared to people who used this strategy less frequently.