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Mental athletes gathering in Boston for the USA Memory Championship

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Mem­o­ry Con­test Comes To MIT, Where Brain Sci­en­tists Explain Why Train­ing Works (WBUR):

For the last few months, 13-year-old Claire Wang of Los Ange­les has been train­ing her mem­o­ry with play­ing cards, phone num­bers, soft­ware — “what­ev­er I can get my hands on,” she says.

She’s been buff­ing up her skills to com­pete in an annu­al sport­ing tour­na­ment where the ath­letes are not phys­i­cal but men­tal.

Known as the USA Mem­o­ry Cham­pi­onship, the com­pe­ti­tion is in its 20th year and host­ed for the first time this Sat­ur­day at MIT, which is also home to one of the biggest col­lec­tions of brain sci­en­tists in the world.

The point is, mem­o­ry is a skill, it’s not an innate capac­i­ty,” says Robert Ajemi­an, a research sci­en­tist at the McGov­ern Insti­tute for Brain Research at MIT. “And that’s the mes­sage that we want to get out, both to the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty and to the lay com­mu­ni­ty…

Thus far, neu­ro­sci­en­tists have paid lit­tle atten­tion to the kinds of super-mem­o­riz­ers who com­pete in cham­pi­onships. But last year, a study in the jour­nal Neu­ron scanned the brains of some of these “men­tal ath­letes” and did pick up some dif­fer­ences. It also found that reg­u­lar peo­ple could dra­mat­i­cal­ly improve their mem­o­ry skills with just six weeks of train­ing.”

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning

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