One of the methods that memory heroes use to memorize information is the Sherlock Holmes technique, which has been proven to be effective in a new study.
Sherlock Holmes remembers everything by imagining that he stores pieces of information in a place called the “memory palace”. Now, researchers have found that this method, which originated in ancient Greece, really has a long-term effect on memory.
Users of this reminiscent technique, called the “Loki” technique, move mentally in a familiar place, such as a path (Holmes Palace). To memorize a piece of information, you drop it along the way and then go back the same way and pick it up.
For example, if you are very familiar with New York City Central Park, you can imagine walking in it and throwing the word “book” in its boat house, then throwing the word “water bottle” in the next turn, and then the word “space”.
Throw in the fountain. When you want to memorize words, you think you are taking exactly the same steps backwards.
By practicing the Loki method, the world’s best memory heroes can memorize large amounts of information, such as word lists and sets of numbers and sets of cards; But the World Memory Championships only test short-term memory, and in a few studies, people’s brain activity while using this method to improve memory has been studied.
Isabella Wagner , a neuroscientist and author of a new study from the University of Vienna, said Loki’s method uses well-known places or pathways as scaffolding or structures to embed new and unrelated information. According to him, the combination of previous knowledge (familiar path) and new information is very powerful for strengthening memory.
According to LiveScience , Wagner and colleagues registered 17 of the world’s top 50 memory contestants and 16 similar ones in terms of characteristics such as age and intelligence to evaluate Loki’s method. The researchers took fMRI scans of participants’ brains while asking them to study random words on a list.
Researchers then presented participants with three words from the list and asked them to recall whether those words were in the same order in which they had read them before.
In the second part of the study, researchers enrolled 50 participants with no sample experience and trained 17 of them for 6 weeks to recall memories using the Loki method.
The other participants were in the control group. Sixteen of them were “active controls”; That is, they were trained using another tactic called “working memory training” and 17 people were “inactive control” who did not receive training at all. They re-scanned participants’ brains while performing the same tasks, both before and after training.
The researchers also asked participants to recall the words on the list 20 minutes and 24 hours after the fMRI scans. They used this experiment to define poor memories or those that can be recalled after 20 minutes; But they are not remembered after 24 hours, nor are lasting memories or those that can be remembered 24 hours later. The researchers tested the participants’ ability to remember and recall words again four months later.
As expected, participants showed better and more lasting memory after training with the Loki method compared to training with or without another memory technique. Participants trained in the ancient method showed a significant improvement in lasting memory compared to control groups; But their change was not significant in the case of poor memories (short-term memories that disappear after 20 minutes).
After 20 minutes, people trained using the Loki method memorized about 62 words from the list; Those who were trained in another way memorized 41 words, while those who were not trained at all memorized 36 words.
After 24 hours, people trained using the Loki method memorized about 56 words, while those in the control groups memorized 30 and 21 words, respectively.
Four months later, people trained in the Loki method were able to memorize about 50 words, and control groups were able to memorize 30 and 27 words, respectively.
In addition, the brain activity of world memory heroes and participants trained in the Loki method was similar when memorizing lists and word order.
In addition, the researchers encountered an unexpected phenomenon: When both world champions and participants performed tasks, their brain activity decreased in areas typically involved in memory processing and long-term memory. “It came as a bit of a surprise to us,” Wagner said. “Because better performance is usually associated with increased involvement of different areas of the brain.”
In other words, the researchers found that less brain activity led to better memory. This may be because Loki’s method increases brain efficiency.
In addition, while participants were resting, there was an increase in neural connections between areas important for long-term memory in the brains of those trained in the Loki method. Wagner says almost anyone can learn to use the Loki method.
Obviously, this requires regular time and practice; Therefore, it may not be suitable for everyone; But it is definitely possible to strengthen the memory and achieve a powerful and even exceptional memory function of this method.
The researchers did not experiment with how the exercise might be extended to other situations, such as recalling topics other than words.
It is also unclear whether this method can help reduce cognitive decline in healthy aging or whether it may be helpful in preventing or slowing the progression of the disease.