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The capacity for semantic memory—the ability to acquire and store knowledge of the world—is highly developed in the human brain. In particular, semantic memory assimilated through an auditory route may be a uniquely human capacity. One method of obtaining neurobiological insight into memory mechanisms is through the study of experts. In this work, we study a group of Hindu Vedic priests, whose religious training requires the memorization of vast tracts of scriptural texts through an oral tradition, recalled spontaneously during a lifetime of subsequent spiritual practice. We demonstrate focal increases of cortical thickness in regions of the left prefrontal lobe and right temporal lobe in Vedic priests, in comparison to a group of matched controls. The findings are relevant to current hypotheses regarding cognitive processes underlying storage and recall of long-term declarative memory.


This article was originally published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, available at DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00833.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0).



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