Anyone familiar with Memory Palace/Roman Room method of learning?

I read about it in Josh Foer’s recent book and it seems to be useful.

I was wondering if it can be used for huge quantities of info to be remembered over a long period of time. I have a major exam coming up, and let’s say I have to remember the symptoms/findings/characteristics of about 2,000 diseases. Can that be done with this method? I can’t create 2,000 rooms/palaces!

I’ve only read about that in the Lector books. My guess is that if you were trained to do it young, it would work very well.

When I have an experience that I want to remember forever, I hold it in my mind and look at it several times right away. I can then call it up and enjoy it again.

As far as studying goes, use what you have learned. Over and over and over. From what I’ve read, you need to repeat the info to make the neural pathways sink in.

I have been doing it since I was a small child, but I wasn’t trained to do it. I just stumbled into it, so it’s a bit haphazard, but I’ve got a memory temple. It’s not something you can start doing suddenly; you start small, with the equivalent of tying a string around your finger, and build up from there. It also requires strong sensory memory and lots of repetition, as flatlined said. It’s not a good approach to cramming, though you might be able to use a little of it to remember a few things that you have particular trouble with.

For what it’s worth, I can tell you that creating 2,000 rooms would be the wrong approach. You would create one room that’s your “disease” room, and establish objects in it that tie to the information about the diseases. Perhaps a ward, with a patient for each disease, though that would probably be much too large to hold in mind. Personally, my knowledge of medicine is held in a stillroom/pharmacy-like place, with charts on the walls, freestanding anatomical models, bottles on the shelves, and the like. I don’t have to retain nearly as much medical info as you’re talking about, though.

Thanks for the info! I’m interested because I’m a medical student and have a board exam coming up in July (hopefully August!)

I have a few months so it’s not going to be quite “cramming.” That being said, my efforts at memorization so far have been futile. Repetition helps but sometimes that also fails.

Okay, let’s say I had a room in my memory palace for musculoskeletal diseases. And I needed to remember the following things:

Osteopetrosis: disorder of osteoclasts, large, brittle, deformed bones; marble-bone disease; cranial nerve defects; autosomal dominant adults; autosomal recessive children (fatal)

Multiple Myeloma: plasma cell disorder, lytic bone lesions

Lets say I had about another 20 more or so “MSK” diseases (conservative estimate). How could I go about ordering all of these in a memory palace? How do I create images for words like “myeloma” that mean nothing to me?

One good thing about the test is that it’s all multiple choice. So I don’t need to be able to produce any material; I just need to recognize the right answer.

I know this is a tall order but I’ve been so deeply frustrated/depressed with how difficult this prep has been. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated!

The image doesn’t have to be directly representative of the memory. For example, my knowledge of the genetic causes of Down’s Syndrome is tied to the image of a tattered paperback copy of The Panda’s Thumb lying on a table in my stillroom. (This is an association that happened without any deliberate effort on my part. My memory does odd things sometimes.)

The important factors are for the memory objects to be distinct and precisely placed. In fact, things that seem out of place are often the easiest to remember. Puns and rebuses can also be useful in constructing a memory object.

Take your “myeloma” example. You could just make a skeleton with lesions and stand it in a room, but that wouldn’t be very memorable, especially since you’d have a whole bunch of other, similar-looking skeletons in there. Instead, picture a large, relatively clean environment, preferably one that has little to do with the subject. Say, a ballroom. On the floor, picture a lower-case “e” and “a” formed by a pile of dark earth. It’s your “e-loam-a”, i.e. “my e-loam-a”. Alternatively, the “e” could be formed of bones showing the characteristic lesions, so the image includes at least one symptom. Visualize that, “touch” it in your imagination, and repeat all the things you need to remember about it. Then move on to the next image.

A much less pleasant alternative, but one which also takes advantage of human memory quirks, might be to find names and pictures of people who have suffered/died with each disease. Picture them standing around the ballroom, grouped by related illnesses (e.g. all the cancer sufferers are standing by the door). Concentrate on their faces; humans are good at remembering faces. As you visualize each person, recite the list of symptoms they would have suffered, and whatever else you need to remember about the disease. Personalize the information.

Trying to remember. . . I think it’s from a Roman named. . . or, ok, the text is called Ad Herennium. I think the problem is that, at least with the Old School mansion method, you’d have had to have been working on designing/recalling/decorating your palace for years to have easily recollectible loci to stick concepts in. If it takes as much effort to remember "third room on the left of the long barrel-vaulted hall with the peacock-blue paisley wallpaper and the white Mies Barcelona couch and waterfall-art-deco armoire, the left of the top shelf of which I stuck the concept of “clavicle” as it does to remember “clavicle” then there’s no point.

That would be a rather silly way to remember a room, wouldn’t it?

The point is to remember it the way you would remember a real place, using a combination of your senses to make it vivid and memorable. It depends on having good sensory memory and visualization skills, and it takes a long time to build up. It’s not like memorizing a set of directions to find an object in someone else’s house–it’s like remembering where you kept something in the house you grew up in.

Even at that, I find it is much better for retaining sensory memories, rather than abstract things like lists (though I do that as well). It’s not like reading something from a book; for me, at least, it’s like re-experiencing an event that contains the information. That copy of The Panda’s Thumb, for instance–when I touch it, I don’t just remember the information I learned from it, I remember where I first picked up the real-world copy, where I was sitting as I read it, and even that it was drizzling rain outside. In fact, those details are more vivid than my memories of the text, of which I only retain the major details that sunk in on the thirteen-year-old me that read it.

In the short term, I don’t think it’s going to help Gestalt any more than any number of other mnemonic devices. You have to build the building before you can move in the furniture (and random dirt piles, sculptures of aardvarks, battered old training ducks…).