With mnemonic training, anyone can develop a superb ability to memorize several things in a very short span of time.
Six week of training is all it takes to become a memory athlete. Memory athletes, as the name suggests, are people who are very skilled at quickly memorizing long sequences or lists. For example, they can recite a long string of digits after seeing it for only a short time. Memory athletes even have their own competition—the World Memory Championships.
Even more amazingly, you don't have to be a born genius or something extraordinary to learn these extraordinary skills. You can train your brain and improve your memorization skills with the right mnemonic training.
One method you can use is the “method of loci”, which is something that many memory athletes use. For example, you have to memorize a list of things using this method. You'd first have to mentally visualize a route you're very familiar with. Then, you have to associate each item with a specific landmark along that route.
When we are explaining something, we use words like “in the first place”. This expression comes from ancient Roman and Greek orators, who memorized their speeches using the method of loci.
There are many amazing things about the brain, but one of the most remarkable things is its ability to adapt. By using the techniques you'll learn in mnemonic training, your brain can adapt to working faster and remembering more.
A new study wanted to explore how well memory athletes perform mnemonic feats compared to non-memory athletes. The researchers first pitted a group of memory athletes against non-memory athletes and had them take a test. They had to memorize 72 words in 20 minutes. The memory athletes got an average of 71.8 words, while their opponents managed to get an average of 39.9 words.
In the next round, 51 non-athlete participants were split into three groups. One group had to learn the method of loci in six weeks. Another group trained their short-term memory, and had to memorize two lists of different things at the same time. The last group experienced no training at all.
The participants underwent brain scans before and after they went into their training programs. When the researchers compared the scans from before and after training, they found something interesting. The participants who trained in the method of loci had brains that looked similar to memory athletes' brains. The training reconfigured connections between networks that are vital to memory and visual thinking. These kinds of changes caused the participants' memory capacity to improve.
Participants from the two other groups exhibited no such changes in their brain scans.
Four months after the training ended, these changes in the brain were still present in the method of loci trainees. The researchers did not scan the participants' brains again, so there is no data on how long their brains retained its new connections. There's no study yet on the more general benefits of mnemonic training, but a vastly improved memory capacity is a reward in itself.
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