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Journal Article

Hippocampal-caudate nucleus interactions support exceptional memory performance


Konrad,  Boris N.
Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Max Planck Society;
External Organizations;


Czisch,  Michael
Dept. Translational Research in Psychiatry, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Max Planck Society;


Dresler,  Martin
Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Max Planck Society;
External Organizations;

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Müller, N. C. J., Konrad, B. N., Kohn, N., Munoz-Lopez, M., Czisch, M., Fernandez, G., et al. (2018). Hippocampal-caudate nucleus interactions support exceptional memory performance. BRAIN STRUCTURE & FUNCTION, 223(3), 1379-1389. doi:10.1007/s00429-017-1556-2.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-78E3-7
Participants of the annual World Memory Championships regularly demonstrate extraordinary memory feats, such as memorising the order of 52 playing cards in 20 s or 1000 binary digits in 5 min. On a cognitive level, memory athletes use well-known mnemonic strategies, such as the method of loci. However, whether these feats are enabled solely through the use of mnemonic strategies or whether they benefit additionally from optimised neural circuits is still not fully clarified. Investigating 23 leading memory athletes, we found volumes of their right hippocampus and caudate nucleus were stronger correlated with each other compared to matched controls; both these volumes positively correlated with their position in the memory sports world ranking. Furthermore, we observed larger volumes of the right anterior hippocampus in athletes. Complementing these structural findings, on a functional level, fMRI resting state connectivity of the anterior hippocampus to both the posterior hippocampus and caudate nucleus predicted the athletes rank. While a competitive interaction between hippocampus and caudate nucleus is often observed in normal memory function, our findings suggest that a hippocampal-caudate nucleus cooperation may enable exceptional memory performance. We speculate that this cooperation reflects an integration of the two memory systems at issue-enabling optimal combination of stimulus-response learning and map-based learning when using mnemonic strategies as for example the method of loci.