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The Ancient Greek Secret to Attaining Super Memory

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The Parthenon. Science has shown that anyone can attain a super memory by using an ancient Greek and Roman technique called “memory palace.” Credit: Gary Bembridge/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-2.0

Science has shown that anyone can attain a super memory with the ability to retain a vast amount of information for a long time by using an ancient Greek and Roman technique called “memory palace.”

After forty days of daily forty-minute training with the memory improving technique, it was proven that a person with average storage skills can more than double their memory.

Researchers from the Netherlands, Germany, and the U.S.—led by assistant professor of cognitive neuroscience, Martin Dresler, of the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen—published their findings in the journal Neuron after completing an experiment with 51 volunteers.

After a four-month period of using two mnemonic techniques, participants were able to remember 62 of 72 terms given whereas the same subjects remembered only 26 of the 72 terms at the beginning of the study.

Four months after the mnemonic training was completed, the memory of the participants remained high. Participants remembered an average of almost fifty words, proving that the improvement of memory was not transient.

The memory palace method dates back to ancient Greece and Rome

The best technique of memorizing, as proven by the new study, has been in use since antiquity, connecting what one wants to memorize (e.g. words), with specific positions in one place—thus, why it is called and “memory palace.”

People imagine walking around in this place (e.g. the palace) and what they see (e.g. a cabinet), corresponding to a word memorized.

Originally called the method of loci, which means the method of places in Latin, the memory palace technique has long been heralded as the best way to remember a range of things from faces to digits and even lists of words in a foreign language.

Those looking to use the method can create any number of locations in which to place the thing they would like to memorize. Many use houses, but places like roads, in which the person can progress forward in their mind, are also helpful.

The most important thing is creating a place through which one can move in their mind and recall what they are trying to memorize.

The representation of the participants’ brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after learning showed that the mnemonic “training” had changed their brain functions (mainly the connections between neurons), which now exhibited greater similarity to the brains of world memory champions.

Individuals participating in the World Memory Championships can memorize five hundred numbers or a hundred words in five minutes.

The comparative examination of the brain on 23 memory champions and 23 people with average memory initially showed significant differences in the connections of the brain.

However, when the second group had already trained for four months, the new comparative examination of the brain then showed much greater similarities.

Thanks to neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to adapt, the brain of a person with an average memory was adapted and showed similarities to a memory champion.

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