I decided to enter my first USA Memory Championship only a few months after I'd first learned it existed. This was two years before it entered the wider public consciousness after its portrayal in Joshua Foer's bestselling book Moonwalking with Einstein. Foer had written about the 2005 Championship for Slate Magazine, and in the process discovered that mastering the sport required no innate gift for memory. In 2006, he returned -- as a competitor-- and won the whole thing. I didn't know Foer's story at the time, and had yet to read his book, but I did know that anyone could win the Championship with enough practice.
Then my grandmother passed away from Alzheimer's disease. She had been suffering from the disease for a number of years prior, but the shock and grief cut right through me as if I never knew the disease would eventually take her. In the midst of that troubling moment, I searched for, and found, a purpose to my own life. I thought to myself, could I beat back this disease that had taken my grandmother's mind and then the rest of her? Could I make my mind not only sharper but healthier?
So, I trained. For hours a day, I practiced for each event in the memory championships. I hit plateaus and had to find ways to break through. My goal was to be the very best, and I knew I had to put in hard work to get there. That year (2010), I came in third. Read the rest
Quirkologist Richard Wiseman has a new book out called How to Remember Everything. In this video, Richard shares 10 mnemonics for remembering various bits of useful information. Read the rest
Great Big Story had a chat with Rebecca Sharrock, who has a condition called highly superior autobiographical memory (H.S.A.M.). Only about 60 other people on earth share her condition, which allows them to remember, in great detail, almost everything they experience. Read the rest
In 1996, a powerful storm tore through a Canadian drive-in theatre, destroying a screen. Some witnesses recall it was during a screening of 'Twister,' which includes a scene where a drive-in is destroyed by a twister. The short documentary "Twisted' looks at how memories can be distorted over time. Read the rest
If there’s one thing this video from AsapSCIENCE taught me, it’s that I have a terrible memory. Thankfully (or then again, maybe not), it turns out a lot of other people do too. Read the rest
Monocle interviewed Ed Cooke, the founder of the language learning site, Memrise.
During a three-month hospital stay when he was 18 years old, Ed Cooke studied memory techniques to overcome boredom. By the age of 23 he was a Grand Master of Memory, someone who can memorise 1,000 random digits in an hour and the order of a deck of cards in two minutes. Cooke is now the founder of a fast-growing start-up called Memrise, which allows people to learn a language quickly while also having fun. He outlines the value of a good memory and tells us how Memrise gained tens of millions of users. Read the rest
Last week I bought a 64GB SanDisk Cruzer Flash Drive for $15.49. Today I found out that the 128GB model is on sale for $22. Shoot. Read the rest
When I first heard the lovely music Leyland James Kirby creates as The Caretaker, it instantly reminded me of The Shining's ballroom ghost scenes. Turns out, that's where Kirby found his original inspiration. His compositions draw from his huge collection of vintage 78s with added static, glitches, loops, and ambience for a deeply ghosty and, well, haunted vibe. All of his releases embody the mysteries of memory in sound. After a four year break, The Caretaker has released the first in a series of six new albums that will be released over three years, "slowly cataloguing the stages of early onset dementia." Listen to "Everywhere at the end of time" below:
Everywhere at the end of time by The Caretaker
Each stage will reveal new points of progression, loss and disintegration. Progressively falling further and further towards the abyss of complete memory loss and nothingness.
Viewing dementia as a series of stages can be a useful way to understand the illness, but it is important to realise that this only provides a rough guide to the progress of the condition.
Drawing on a recorded history of 20 years of recollected memories this is one final journey and study into recreating the progression of dementia through sound.
"Everywhere at the end of time" by The Caretaker (Bandcamp)
"Out Of Time: Leyland James Kirby And The Death Of A Caretaker" (The Quietus) Read the rest
For more than a decade, University of Southern California neuro-engineer Theodore Berger has been working on an artificial hippocampus, an electronic aid for the part of the brain that scientists believe
encodes experiences as long-term memories. Now Berger and a new startup called Kernel are confident that the device is ready for prime time.
"We’re testing it in humans now, and getting good initial results,” Berger told IEEE Spectrum. “We’re going to go forward with the goal of commercializing this prosthesis.”
In Berger’s approach, electrodes in the hippocampus first record electrical signals from certain neurons as they learn something new and encode the memory. These electrical signals are the result of neurons “firing” in specific patterns. Berger studied how electrical signals associated with learning are translated into signals associated with storing that information in long-term memory. Then his lab built mathematical models that take any input (learning) signal, and produce the proper output (memory) signal.
An implant could help someone whose hippocampus doesn't properly turn information into memories.
An implanted memory prosthetic would have electrodes to record signals during learning, a microprocessor to do the computations, and electrodes that stimulate neurons to encode the information as a memory.
For people who have difficulty forming lasting memories on their own, the prosthetic would provide a boost. “We take these memory codes, enhance them, and put them back into the brain,” Berger says. “If we can do that consistently, then we’ll be ready to go.”
"New Startup Aims to Commercialize a Brain Prosthetic to Improve Memory" (IEEE Spectrum) Read the rest
One of my all-time favorite books is Ron Hale-Evans' Mind Performance Hacks, by Ron Hale-Evans, which has 75 practical tips for becoming a better thinker. I highly recommend it, as well as his follow-up book, Mindhacker (co-written with Marty Hale-Evans)
The first tip in the book is a classic, but I suspect many people don't know it. It's a way to make a mental list of ten things. You can use this method to create a shopping list, a packing list, an errand list, or anything else that has ten things or less.
To start using this technique, you first have to remember 10 key
words. Once you memorize these words, you can use the same ones for the rest of your life. Here they are:
1 :: gun
2 :: shoe
3 :: tree
4 :: door
5 :: hive
6 :: sticks
7 :: heaven
8 :: gate
9 :: wine
10 :: hen
Notice that the words rhyme with the number they are associated with. You probably have them memorized already.
Now, take each item on your list and pair them with a keyword by visualizing the two words in a weird (and therefore memorable) way . Here's how Ron uses the keywords to remember what he needs to bring with him when he leaves his house:
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1 :: gun :: medication
I never leave the house without this. I imagine a gun firing pills scattershot in all directions.
2 :: shoe :: keys
I imagine the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe trying to open the front door of her giant shoe with her keys while dozens of her children are tugging on her skirt.
Our friend Joshua Foer, memory champion and author of the fantastic book "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything," shows how he stores incredible amounts of useful (and useless) information in the memory palace in his head.
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Q: Why is it so hard to remember the name of someone you've just met? A: Because our memories evolved to be associative, and the name of a person doesn't have much of an association with who they are. Mind Hacks offers a way to help you remember names by inventing false associations. The sillier or weirder the association, the better.
I've been using a similar method to help me remember the order of a shuffled deck of cards. My goal is to be able to hand someone a deck of cards, ask them to shuffle it and return it to me. I will then spend a minute or two going through the deck, looking at each card. Then I will hand the deck back to the person and ask them to look at the cards while I call them out one-by-one.
I'm using a memorization method from an e-book called How to Learn & Memorize a Randomized Deck of Playing Cards Using a Memory Palace and Image-Association System Specifically Designed for Card Memorization Mastery by Anthony Metivier. I've been practicing for about 4 days (10-15 minutes a day) and I can remember the mnemonically-derived "names" of 26 cards so far. For example, the 2 of Spades is "tin can." The King of Hearts is "ram." The 9 of Spades is "tape."
To help me memorize the names of the cards, I'm using a free cross-platform flashcard app called AnkiApp. It keeps track of the cards that you easily remember, and focuses on the ones you have difficulty remembering. Read the rest
Chances are you don't remember much from before you were about three years old, and the way we narrate our worlds to ourselves is a big part of why. Read the rest
UCLA psychology professor Alan Castel ran an experiment where more than 100 students drew the Apple logo from memory, and the results were surprisingly terrible. Why? Read the rest
In the New Yorker, my friend Dan Zalewski reports on Lonni Sue Johnson, a 64-year-old with profound amnesia—and new research into how her brain, and memory, works. Read the rest
Your memories can be manipulated and changed. In fact, this happens often. And you're the one doing it to yourself. Read the rest
Insights on science and doing science by the woman who studied one of history's most famous neuro patients.