American science journalist Joshua Foer was a perfectly normal guy with a perfectly normal memory. Then he entered the USA National Memory Championships - and ended up giving the country’s brain power prodigies a run for their money.
How did he do it?
Matthew Syed takes a deep dive into the heady world of brain training - where ordinary people challenge themselves to reach new peaks of mental athleticism. Journeying from the methods of the Ancient Greeks, to the showbiz hacks of the 1960s, to the Manhattan competition hall where Joshua competed for the title of memory champion in 2006, Matthew learns that the desire to push the limits of our cognitive capacity has been around for thousands of years.
But do these techniques work? In his effort to understand what’s possible when it comes to improving our minds and memories, Matthew examines the impact of nature and nurture on our brains - asking whether environmental inequality, or genetics, is the deciding factor in determining whether anyone could become a mental athlete.
Producer: Eleanor Biggs
Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick
Series Editor: Russell Finch
Executive Producers: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien
A Novel production for BBC Radio 4