“We investigated whether these memories overlapped across some rooms, but all of the memories were completely independent,” said the paper’s first author, Charlotte Alme. “This indicates that the brain has an enormous capacity for storage. The ability to create a unique memory or map for every locale explains how we manage to distinguish between very similar memories and how the brain prevents us from mixing up events.”
Alme says their findings also help explain why a specific memory trick called “the method of loci” works. This technique involves making a connection between things that you want to remember and places that you know quite well. By associating individual memories with different rooms in your house, for example, you can more easily recall what you need to remember by mentally walking through your house and visiting each room.
“Our paper shows that rats (and most likely humans) have a map for each individual place, which is why the method of loci works,” she said. “Each place (or room in your house) is represented by a unique map or memory, and because we have so many different maps we can remember many similar places without mixing them up.”
…that the findings were important for understanding episodic memory, or memories that are formed from autobiographical experiences.