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Memory Techniques: scientifically proven to work

Remembering things can be a problem for most people in daily life. It is a classic daily issue, remembering faces, remembering numbers, where you’ve placed your keys. We still struggle to know exactly

Memory Techniques: scientifically proven to work

Remembering things can be a problem for most people in daily life. It is a classic daily issue, remembering faces, remembering numbers, where you’ve placed your keys. We still struggle to know exactly where memories are stored, but through various studies, we know areas of the brain known to be crucial in laying down new memory.

Students are often taught varying techniques to try and remember facts and figures relevant to their studies. From association, rhyming, and use of mnemonics, everyone has a new trick they want everyone to know and use, yet not all of them are created equal. One technique developed in ancient Greece is known as the “method of loci”; it uses mental navigation around a familiar environment, and using the landmarks to mentally drop information that needs to be remembered. Mentally retracing the route can help recall the information.

Method of Loci has been used by individuals participating in Memory competitions, recalling long lists of digits, words, or even the order of a deck of cards. Previous studies have shown that training using the method of loci during memory encoding and retrieval resulted in better memory performance and better utilization of the hippocampus and surrounding parts of the brain.

The hippocampus is an area of the brain known to be vital for creating new memories, and it is something we will look at in more detail in another blog.  Other studies have also shown this technique to activate and link the hippocampus to a region of the brain known as the pre-frontal cortex, and this association has been shown to be responsible for more durable memory formation.

A recent 2021 study looking at “method of loci” training in memory athletes and mnemonic naïve participants over a 4 week period showed a significant boost in producing durable, longer-lasting memory, both in memory athletes and in non-trained people. After 4 months of training, these improvements were maintained sufficiently.

So this technique works, and it has strong evidence behind it. How do you use it?

 

First, create a memorable journey.

This can be a well-known route, for example through your house. Identify some locations for your journey:

  1. Your bed
  2. Your wardrobe
  3. Your bathroom
  4. Going down your hallway
  5. Go down the stairs
  6. Explore the living room
  7. Into the dining room
  8. And kitchen

 

Memorize the items

  1. Milk
  2. Carrots
  3. Garlic
  4. Soup
  5. Mushrooms
  6. Shower gel

Etc

Now place these items across your visualized space as you walk through it. The more bold and exaggerated the item is when placed, the easier it will be to remember. Instead if placing carrots in the fridge, make them 6ft long and on the sofa, watching TV. It will be hard to forget that

Recall

To recall the items, just retrace your route through your memory palace. Visualize your route, and you should be able to visualize the items you’ve placed in the locations. You might need to practice the memorization technique a few times first before you improve, but with practice, you may remember 15, 20, or 30 items in one location.

 

 

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