The human brain is the most advanced computer ever created, but as our modern lives are so full of convenience and luxury, especially when it comes to getting information, it can be hard maintaining that peak performance out of our brains.
The modern world takes it very easy on our brains.
This problem can be particularly frustrating when it comes to memory.
Human memory is naturally flawed. It’s almost impossible to recall something 100% correctly, there’s really only a tiny slice of the population that can truly remember something exactly as it happened.
That is why cognitive neuroscientists, in a study published by the scientific journal Neuron, studied the brains of 23 ‘memory champions’ to see what is really happening in the brain when we remember things.
Researchers from the Netherlands’ Radboud University used MRI scans to study the mechanics of memory and the brain.
To their surprise, it wasn’t the size of the brain, or certain parts of the brain, that were bigger or more pronounced, instead there was a difference in the basic functions of the brain.
That is, connections within the brain were completely different to a normal brain. Furthermore, a specific subset of 25 connections within the brain were particularly pronounced for these memory champions.
The memory champions all claimed to use mnemonic training techniques to keep their brains sharp.
Mnemonic techniques being the use of patterns and and associations to contextualize memories, so that a memory has more weight within your own brain, like creating a rolodex of memories within your brain you can sort through and access at any given time.
After studying the super human brains, the researchers then brought in 51 people with regular ol’ brains and no special techniques for remembering things.
These normal people were then taught to use “loci training,” a strategy invented by the ancient Greeks, where you compartmentalize your memories and thoughts in a sort of organizational system.
Loci training is further defined here, per remembereverything.org.
“The method of loci is essentially a visual filing system, allowing you to memorize and recall a virtually unlimited number of items in a fixed order. Each location serves as a hook, to which you visually connect whatever you want to remember. You accomplish this by creating an image or scene in mind, in which the location and the to-be memorized item interact. The order is provided by defining a precise journey with distinct locations along a route you are familiar with. Also, like with any journey, you need to define a fixed starting point.”
After utilizing the loci training on the people with regular brains, researchers noticed stronger connections in the brain, much like what was happening in the super-brains.
Specifically, there was enhanced connection between the medial prefrontal cortex and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
The medial prefrontal cortex is in charge of taking new information and linking it with stuff you already knew and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is concerned with strategic learning.
This may all sound a little complicated and scientific, but just think of your brain as a muscle that you have to work out to keep in top shape.
You can literally train your brain to start making vital connections.
Remember, it’s not the size of the brain, it’s the connections that brain is making.
You can try out this loci training method here.
Sharpen those brains, folks!