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Memory palaces – learning science


A memory palace is a type of memory technique
where you imagine a physical location to help you remember more abstract information. The reason that memory palaces work is that
our brains are better at remembering images and locations, as opposed to abstract things
like names and numbers. Let’s start with an example to show you
how this works. Let’s say that you’re trying to remember
the six drugs or drug classes that are known to cause pancreatitis, or inflammation of
the pancreas. The list goes diuretics, corticosteroids,
alcohol, azathioprine, didanosine, and valproic acid. First things first, though. You have to ask yourself – is this something
worth remembering and is the learning objective clear? Clinically, it’s really helpful to have
these six drugs or drug classes in your working memory so that you can spot them on a medication
list and think about them as a potential cause of pancreatitis. So if you decide it’s worth remembering
a list like this using a memory palace, you’ve got to start with picking a place that you’re
familiar with, like a bedroom. It doesn’t have to be a bedroom, though,
it can be any place you know – like the gym, a store, or someplace you’ve seen or imagined
like in a TV show like the Office. Next, you can start identifying specific spots
called loci in that place. It’s nice to pick really distinct spots
– and in this case we can pick out six spots since there are six things to remember – let’s
go with the bed, the window, the doorway, the dresser, the rug, and the ceiling light. Next, you have to create images for each term
you’re trying to remember. To do this you can try a few approaches. First you might go with “sounds like”,
for example “papule” sounds like papa and mule, so you can imagine a excited new
dad riding around on his baby mule. Another trick is to go with “looks like”,
for example, a parietal cell looks like a fried egg. Finally, you might try “seems like”, for
example, taking sedative medication and feeling drowsy seems like what a bear might feel while
hibernating through the winter. But rather than try to analyze which trick
you’re using, you should simply use whichever image first springs to mind. So in our pancreatitis example, you might
imagine someone urinating all over the sheets to help you think of diuretics on the bed. A huge steroid using body-builder smashing
the window to think of corticosteroids and the window. A drunk person missing the doorway and running
straight into the wall for alcohol and the doorway. For – maybe Aslan the Lion from Narnia hiding
in your dresser drawer for Azathioprine. maybe a Titanic sinking into the fuzzy rug
For Didanosine, and finally for valproic acid a valiant professor Indiana Jones swinging
from the ceiling light. The more unique and descriptive the image,
the better it will stick, because our minds love to hang on to interesting visual images
in familiar settings. So that’s how it works – the memory palace
provides a scaffold for abstract information, and over time it can help your brain organize
and connect concepts. And don’t worry if you’re not a good at
drawing because you don’t actually have to draw anything out, you can simply imagine
it, and it works just as well. With this technique you learn faster while
forgetting less, and creating the images themselves makes learning more enjoyable and adds a little
flavor to the usual study routine. In terms of making a memory palace, it’s
always important to pick the right material to apply this learning tool – typically you
want to pick something where the learning objective is really clear, like learning the
steps of a process or a list. Making your own memory palace can take time,
but studies suggest that it’s worth the effort because the memory palace is more personalized
and therefore easier to remember. Having said that, the difficulty of the material
really matters, and for difficult information and concepts really well-crafted memory palaces
are likely to be more accurate and higher quality. So given the availability of great resources
for memory palaces the ideal situation for a student might be to make simple memory palaces
themselves and use existing well-crafted ones for tough material until they feel ready to
take on those challenging topics themselves. All right, as a quick recap of the causes
of pancreatitis. Take a second right now and try to think of
the six drugs or drug classes that can lead to pancreatitis.

Glenn Chapman

59 Comments

  1. it's much harder than periodic training like flash cards also you don't have a backup in this method and time consuming too, but yes it is better than blatant mug up

  2. At the beginning I was kind of skeptical, thinking it would be way harder to remember all those objects and weird things in the bedroom.
    But after the video ended, I could remember the drugs better than I would have without it!
    Thanks!

  3. This is what Sketchy Medical is all about 🙂 (another great med student learning platform)

  4. I could remember 6 drugs which can cause pancreatitis at the end of the video!

  5. I love ya'lls work! It really helped me out through my licensures exams. I wish you guys existed when I was in college back then.

  6. That's awesome. Can you make more videos on key concepts in practice and memory palace. It would be a great help. Thank you Osmosis and team. Long way to go….! #awesome

  7. Memory is one of the most important assets  for anyone  who learns . This is one of the tools where our success holds on .

  8. Do we need to make different loci for different things we want to learn or same loci for everything
    Also
    If we don't need more than 1 loci won't it get difficult?
    And
    If we do need to make different loci we might actually run out of rooms for loci

  9. wow i still cant believe this is real. Like i clearly remember all the six drugs. Osmosis you guys are amazing

  10. Aw the kid who voices these is so cute I love looking at him at the end of some videos.

  11. This is unbelievable. I knew about memory palaces (thank you, Sherlock) but now I was able to remember even didanosine, which I have never hear of before! Thank you. You are gods, Osmosis people.

  12. been using this for years for counting cards and first two years of med school. makes it so easy to make 100s in classes and do well on boards. surprised everyone does not do this.

  13. Thank you osmosis, greetings from bangladesh! many doctors in our medical college liked that video. but i have a question?? incase of many list like drugs using asthma ,heart failure ,hypertension, should i repeat same palace for several lists ? or i should use different mind palace

  14. sketchy is the next big thing in medical…after pathoma completely rocked the med school pathology

  15. lol i didnt even try to remember them but got all 6 six right by the end , the memory palace is just that good

  16. I was wasn't actually trying to memorize the drugs or even listen to them, but those images made me learn them!

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