A scientific theory of Ars Memoriae: Spatial view cells in a continuous attractor network with linked items.
The art of memory (ars memoriae) used since classical times includes using a well-known scene to associate each view or part of the scene with a different item in a speech. This memory technique is also known as the "method of loci." The new theory is proposed that this type of memory is implemented in the CA3 region of the hippocampus where there are spatial view cells in primates that allow a particular view to be associated with a particular object in an event or episodic memory. Given that the CA3 cells with their extensive recurrent collateral system connecting different CA3 cells, and associative synaptic modifiability, form an autoassociation or attractor network, the spatial view cells with their approximately Gaussian view fields become linked in a continuous attractor network. As the view space is traversed continuously (e.g., by self-motion or imagined self-motion across the scene), the views are therefore successively recalled in the correct order, with no view missing, and with low interference between the items to be recalled. Given that each spatial view has been associated with a different discrete item, the items are recalled in the correct order, with none missing. This is the first neuroscience theory of ars memoriae. The theory provides a foundation for understanding how a key feature of ars memoriae, the ability to use a spatial scene to encode a sequence of items to be remembered, is implemented. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.