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© 2020, The Author(s). Memory performance results from plasticity, the ability to change with experience. We show that benefit from practice over a few trials, learning slope, is predictive of long-term recall and hippocampal volume across a broad age range and a long period of time, relates to memory training benefit, and is heritable. First, in a healthy lifespan sample (n = 1825, age 4–93 years), comprising 3483 occasions of combined magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and memory tests over a period of up to 11 years, learning slope across 5 trials was uniquely related to performance on a delayed free recall test, as well as hippocampal volume, independent from first trial memory or total memory performance across the five learning trials. Second, learning slope was predictive of benefit from memory training across ten weeks in an experimental subsample of adults (n = 155). Finally, in an independent sample of male twins (n = 1240, age 51–50 years), learning slope showed significant heritability. Within-session learning slope may be a useful marker beyond performance per se, being heritable and having unique predictive value for long-term memory function, hippocampal volume and training benefit across the human lifespan.

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Journal article


Scientific Reports

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