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Everyone Can Be Sherlock Holmes, Build Your Mind Palace For Exceptional Memory

Everyone Can Be Sherlock Holmes, Build Your Mind Palace For Exceptional Memory

Sherlock Holmes has been a household fictional character for decades. Famous for being detail-minded, observant, logical, slightly (or very) sociopathic, Sherlock is also known for his memory technique — his MIND PALACE (or memory palace).

In the BBC crime drama Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) mentioned the word “mind palace” numerous times. He goes there to retrieve memories and information to piece together answers to solve crimes.

In this scene in the episode The Hounds of Baskerville, Sherlock was deciphering what the word “liberty” means.

Sherlock: Get out! I need to go to my mind palace.
Lab assistant: What?
John: He’s not going to be doing much talking for a while, we might as well go.
Lab assistant: (confused) His what?
John: Mind palace.

Then Dr. Watson continued to explain to the lab assistant what a mind (or memory) palace is. A memory palace is a mental map or location that stores past memories, and it allows a person to trace back to information whenever needed without missing any bits. Sounds complicated and abstract, right?

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You may think this is the extraordinary power that Sherlock has, but long before Sherlock was even created the ancient Greek poet Simonides of Ceos invented the memory palace[1], scholastically known as the Method of loci. According to a myth, Simonides was asked to identify the remains of banqueters after the collapse of the hall. He then named each body based on where they sat in the hall. As amazing as it sounds, I’m sure some of you are still judging the idea of a memory palace.

Here is the response to all of the skeptism.

A research study [2] has proven that:

After spending six weeks cultivating an internal “memory palace”, people more than doubled the number of words they could retain in a short time period and their performance remained impressive four months later.

Yeah, so what?

We have all experienced that moment when we are in desperate need of something but we couldn’t find it because our room is too messy. It is the same for our memories. We tend to remember things in a random and chaotic way, so it becomes difficult to “search” and “trace” the memory back.

To easily grasp the concept of the memory palace, you don’t have to be a prodigy or own a specially-functioning super brain to strengthen your memory skills, and here are 4 steps to guide to a better memory:

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1. Create your own memory palace

Your memory palace could be your office, your neighborhood, or even an imaginary fantasyland with unicorns. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are familiar with the place.

For beginners, I would suggest to visualize a place where you come in to contact with every so often, the more frequently the better, like your apartment. (Okay, let’s continue to use an apartment as the example at this point.)

2. Plan a route and follow it

Imagine you are standing at the entrance of your apartment and you plan a route to walk through it. It could be: dining area, living room, bedroom, and last bathroom; or garage, laundry room, dining area, living room, patio. You decide which is the best way for you to walk through the apartment, but once you are set on a route, stick to it!

    The route you take in your memory palace.

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    3. Pay attention (or create) detailed features

    As you “walk” along the planned route, make sure to pay attention to every nook and cranny in the memory palace. Also, note every feature or item in a sequence, like left to right.

    Look at the Van Gogh painting on the wall in the dining area, take note of the antique yellow-ish lamp hanging in the ceiling of the living room, remember the old, dying plant your grandma gave you for Christmas on the patio.

    4. Associate things you want to memorize with your planned route

    Take a shopping list as an example: you need a hat, banana, and vegetables.

    Associate the things you want to memorize with the features in the palace: the hat you need with the Van Gogh painting, then banana with the lamp, and vegetables with the plant.

    If you want to specifically remember something more vividly, exaggerate it in your imagination to make a lasting impression.

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      Associate the features (left) with the items you need to memorize (right).

      Now that you have the route and features, go try it!

      Of course, what I have provided you is a simplified version of using the memory palace. There are people out there who memorize things with a different approach in their memory palaces. Some go above and beyond to create features to remember the 45 U.S. Presidents in order, from George Washington to the incumbent Donald Trump. Some prefer sticking to colors and associate items with them. Some use the linguistic approach to associate things with features that are similar in sound.

      It goes to show you can use the memory palace for anything and everything, and you are not required to stick to the approach I shared. Find the best route for your own memory palace and always practice using it, and I’m sure you can tell people you memorize like Sherlock in no time!

      Reference

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      Frank Yung

      Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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      Last Updated on June 6, 2019

      Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

      Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

      In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

      Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

      Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

      Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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         A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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        The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

        “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

        In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

        The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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          A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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          Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

          “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

          When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

          The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

          As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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          “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

          Silence relieves stress and tension.

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            It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

            A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

            “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

            Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

            Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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              The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

              Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

              But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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              Summation

              Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

              Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

              Reference

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