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A Look Inside a Memory Champion's "Mind Palace"

New features frequently added. Just what you need. Most of us however, are not wired that way. But don't be discouraged: thanks to neuroplasticity , anyone can transcend their fallible memory.

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What you're born with isn't what you're stuck with. There are a few relatively simple things a person can do to help improve their memory function. First up, the basics: the foundation of good memory is good health.

Eating and sleeping right will lead to optimal brain function, the flow-on effect of which is a better memory. A mnemonic device is a trick designed to make remembering things easier. So instead of remembering to buy eggs, rice, apples and dog food, it might be easier to think of READ, which stands for rice, eggs, apples, and dog food. This is the acrostic method. Another more complicated mnemonic technique is called a mind palace , where you base a memory around visual images.


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  • Let's use the same shopping list as an example. For eggs, picture a hen pecking at the rice, followed by a nearby tree of apple blossoms, the petals falling around the hen, falling on a sleeping dog. This technique is more formally called 'method of loci', and is believed to have been invented by the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos, who developed his muscular memory about 2, years ago, in really unfortunate circumstances.

    The roof of a banquet hall, full of people, collapsed and crushed many of them beyond recognition. Simonides had to recall where people had been sitting along the tables to confirm their deaths — hence, method of location. The great detective imagined an attic, and filled it with the things that he knew. Here in the attic, Holmes is able to search around and find anything that he might deem useful.

    The purported advantage is to create towns and cities that each represent a topic or an area of study, thus offering an efficient filing of the information and an easy path for the regular review necessary for long term memory storage. Something that is likely a reference to the "method of loci" techniques survives to this day in the common English phrases "in the first place", "in the second place", and so forth.

    The technique is also used for second language vocabulary learning, as polyglot Timothy Doner described in his TED talk. The designation is not used with strict consistency. In some cases it refers broadly to what is otherwise known as the art of memory , the origins of which are related , according to tradition, in the story of Simonides of Ceos and the collapsing banquet hall. Kosslyn remarks "[t]his insight led to the development of a technique the Greeks called the method of loci, which is a systematic way of improving one's memory by using imagery.

    She states, "This particular mnemonic technique has come to be called the "method of loci".

    Use the Memory Palace Technique to Remember Basically Everything

    In other cases the designation is generally consistent, but more specific: "The Method of Loci is a Mnemonic Device involving the creation of a Visual Map of one's house. This term can be misleading: the ancient principles and techniques of the art of memory , hastily glossed in some of the works, cited above, depended equally upon images and places. The designator "method of loci" does not convey the equal weight placed on both elements.

    Training in the art or arts of memory as a whole, as attested in classical antiquity, was far more inclusive and comprehensive in the treatment of this subject. Patients who have medial parietal cortex damage have trouble linking landmarks with certain locations; many of these patients are unable to give or follow directions and often get lost.

    The retrosplenial cortex is also linked to memory and navigation. In one study on the effects of selective granular retrosplenial cortex lesions in rats, the researcher found that damage to the retrosplenial cortex led to impaired spatial learning abilities. Rats with damage to this area failed to recall which areas of the maze they had already visited, rarely explored different arms of the maze, almost never recalled the maze in future trials, and took longer to reach the end of the maze, as compared to rats with a fully working retrosplenial cortex.

    In a classic study in cognitive neuroscience , O'Keefe and Nadel proposed "that the hippocampus is the core of a neural memory system providing an objective spatial framework within which the items and events of an organism's experience are located and interrelated. It has been noted that "[t]he hippocampus underpins our ability to navigate, to form and recollect memories, and to imagine future experiences. How activity across millions of hippocampal neurons supports these functions is a fundamental question in neuroscience, wherein the size, sparseness, and organization of the hippocampal neural code are debated.

    In a more recent study, memory champions during resting periods did not exhibit specific regional brain differences, but distributed functional brain network connectivity changes compared to control subjects. When volunteers trained use of the method of loci for six weeks, the training-induced changes in brain connectivity were similar to the brain network organization that distinguished memory champions from controls. Fictional portrayals of the method of loci extend as far back as ancient Greek myths.

    The method of loci also features prominently in the BBC series Sherlock , in which the titular main character uses a "mind palace" to store information. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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    This article is about the memorization technique. For other uses, see Locus. For the podcast, see The Memory Palace. The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map'.