Ruth Spencer of­fer five tech­niques to trig­ger that mem­ory

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Ruth Spencer of­fers five tech­niques to trig­ger that mem­ory

Mem­ory: it’s not just the only song you know from Cats. Our me­mories are who we are, the sum to­tal of our life ex­pe­ri­ences. Why then is it so hard to re­mem­ber stuff? For­tu­nately, there are ways to com­bat a mem­ory like a ... that thing with holes, you know, you drain wa­ter with it. Here are five things sci­ence sug­gests you try.

The Method of Loci

Loci is Latin for lo­ca­tions, but you won’t need to re­mem­ber that. Ba­si­cally you imag­ine a place — your house, for ex­am­ple — and mem­o­rise the lay­out. Men­tally place the things you want to re­mem­ber in­side the house — your gro­cery list might in­clude a broc­coli sofa in the lounge, a cof­fee cof­fee ta­ble, a ham lamp — so that when you need to re­call them you walk your­self back through the house, notic­ing the dis­tinct smell of warm ham. This method is con­sid­ered the gold stan­dard of mem­ory tricks, even though it gives you twice as many things to re­mem­ber and at­tracts mice.


Things you can re­mem­ber: the words to the

Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. Things you can’t re­mem­ber: the pe­ri­odic ta­ble of el­e­ments. So­lu­tion: re­word the world’s eas­i­est rap with the things you want to re­mem­ber, keep­ing the rhythm and em­pha­sis. “Now HY­dro­gen helium LITHium beryl­lium ... ” Sud­denly you know your el­e­ments and have a new party trick to im­press your friends (re­sults may vary). Your life will be flip-turned up­side down.

The Face is Fa­mil­iar

Names are one of the most eas­ily for­got­ten things and one of the most so­cially awk­ward to for­get. For­tu­nately there is a tech­nique to help: be a creeper. When you’re in­tro­duced, re­peat the per­son’s name im­me­di­ately, and ask if it has an un­usual spell­ing. When they say, no, it’s just spelled D-A-V-E like usual, re­peat “Dave, mmm, right, Dave” to your­self, mus­ingly. Take own­er­ship of the name by in­tro­duc­ing Dave to some­one else, then use his name of­ten as you speak to him, which is to­tally nor­mal and not at all un­com­fort­able for ev­ery­one, Dave. At least you in­tro­duced Dave to some­one else, so he has some­one else to talk to about how creepy you are.

Deez Nuts

Bor­ingly, the best thing for a sharp mem­ory might be healthy liv­ing. Get­ting enough sleep, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and con­sum­ing the raw nut pro­teins and omega-3s of a Mediter­ranean diet has been shown to im­prove mem­ory. The hard part is re­mem­ber­ing all of this at 3am, mid-Net­flix binge, with your hand so cov­ered in Twisties dust you look part-Simp­son.


If your me­mories are ac­tu­ally the prob­lem, sci­en­tists are get­ting closer to be­ing able to erase the ones that bother you. They’re al­ready do­ing it in mice: tar­get­ing fear neu­rons to wipe out spe­cific me­mories with­out af­fect­ing oth­ers, although how they know the mice haven’t sud­denly for­got­ten the lyrics to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is not stated. This re­search will ei­ther save us all from our trau­mas or breed a race of fearless mice that will kill us all to eat our ham lamps. Then we’ll wish we’d all paid more at­ten­tion to Cats.

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