Brain Anatomy: Scientists Explain How Your Memory Works

Dec 14, 2015 10:50 AM EST | By Maria Leonila Masculino

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People recall their life events through either of these memory styles: The episodic memory - which retains a detailed visual account of an event; and the semantic memory - which tend to recall more facts than details.

Medical Daily reports Canadian researchers from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences studied the association of these memory styles to their brain connectivity patterns. According to them, these connectivity patterns not only link to memory styles but could also suggest a lifelong trait among individuals.

"For decades, nearly all research on memory and brain function has treated people as the same, averaging across individuals," the study's lead author Dr. Signy Sheldon, an assistant professor of Psychology at McGill University, wrote in a press release.

"Yet as we know from experience and from comparing our recollection to others, peoples' memory traits vary," she continued. "Our study shows that these memory traits correspond to stable differences in brain function, even when we are not asking people to perform memory tasks while in the scanner."

For the study, the researchers asked 66 healthy adults to answer the Survey of Autobiographical Memory (SAM) to find out how well they could recall life events and their specific memory style. The scientists then rated the participants' autobiographical memory from Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) to Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory (SDAM).

After completing the survey, the participants underwent a brain scan (fMRI) that revealed each of their brain connectivity patterns across different regions. The researchers mainly focused on the medial temporal lobe - which is responsible for memory functions and its connections to other regions.

According to results, those who recalled detailed autobiographical memories had higher medial temporal lobe connections to brain regions that involve visual processes. Meanwhile, those who had retained more facts showed higher medial temporal lobe connection to brain areas that involve reasoning and organization.

This study was published in the journal Cortex.

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