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How Your Memory Works and How to Improve Your Memory Dramatically

Upon experiencing a particular sensation, be it a pleasurable sound, sight or smell, the stimuli is flashed in the sensory regions of the brain. If the brain focused on the stimuli consciously, mainly due to the activity in the thalamus, the sensations registered are then transferred to short term memory storage in the cerebral cortex.

The information that is stored in short term memory is simply a collection of electrochemical connections between neurons. In order to make a permanent imprint into long term memory, it is necessary for the connections to remain during the transfer between the short term memory regions of the brain to the long term memory regions of the brain. This transfer process is largely driven by the hippocampus and it was shown that sleep plays a major role in this consolidation. Furthermore, recent studies employing neuroimaging suggest that certain brain activation patterns during sleep appear to be identical to those observed during the learning session that preceded it- propounding that the brain automatically performs a certain type of repetition during sleep in order to consolidate the memory.

To consciously keep the electrochemical connections active whilst the transfer between short to long term memory is taking place, requires a strategy- it commonly involves:

  1. Repetition- which re-enforces the electrochemical connections.
  2. Analysis- which forces one to create a logical link to information that is already in long term storage.
  3. Emotional reaction- the pathways are encoded much more strongly as the emotional response is included in the registered sensation.
  4. Mnemonic- an artificial link that tricks the brain into remembering, frequently combining the 3 factors above to provide a more powerful encoding approach.

These methods stimulate the frontal lobes and cause a protein synthesis in the neural connections which then fixes the information in long term storage.

The education system tends to focus on using Repetition and Analysis though with some experimentation it becomes evident that these methods are slow and dull- thus making the whole learning experience sub-optimal and less enjoyable.

Mnemonics and memory systems have been used to assist learning as far back as the days of Simonides of Ceos and possibly even before that in ancient Egypt. The techniques have evolved substantially over time and applications were developed to suite new data types; however, the underlying principles remain the same. The key to such systems is to use creativity and imagination in a very specific manner- combining information that is unknown with something that is already known.

The technique demonstrated below is the most basic application of such systems yet it is extremely powerful and effective. For a complete treatment of the topic, with a wide variety of modern application, the reader is recommended to read The Manual- A guide to the Ultimate Study Method by Rod Bremer. The topic of memory is covered in depth with techniques…

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