This is one of the most complex processes in the brain because it involves many different parts of the brain. We can break memory down into three responsibilities; 1. Absorption of information 2. Storage of information and 3. Retrieval of information.
Absorbing and then storing information is called “encoding” which calls upon the brain’s pattern recognition system to identify the stimulus then classify it. The third responsibility, retrieval, operates on three different time lines; immediate recall (a few seconds), delayed recall, (minutes or hours) and finally remote memory (years).
Play around with different memory techniques such as Story retell, Person Action Object and Memory Palace, using a variety of stimuli (words, numbers, pictures, names and faces or a deck of cards). Practice memory retrieval without cues to strengthen memory. For example a common studying strategy is to read a page of notes over and over until it feels familiar. This gives the brain a false sense of owning the knowledge because the brain has learned to predict what comes next while reading. So when called upon to produce the information on that page of notes without a visual cue, the brain is lost (for most individuals). Retrieving information that hasn’t been stored through ‘free recall’ practice is like trying to find your keys when someone else has put them away.
Memorizing digits of Pi
Numbers themselves carry little meaning however meaning can be given to numbers so that they are easier to understand.
Try chunking this long string of numbers into meaningful images. For example the first 5 digits can be looked at as a pattern 31415, so give that pattern a name. Try using dates (ie 92 was the year you got married) or an athlete’s numbers (ie. 35 is Justin Verlander). Think of hotel room numbers you have stayed in, the price of a significant purchase, an address, or a phone number. The more detailed the abstract, the more emotions attached to it, the easier it will be to retrieve. Once you have broken down 54 digits of Pi into 10,15 or 20 meaningful images, the next step is to practice associating your meaningful images to their corresponding digits. Caution, the more items you have the more demanding it will be to keep them all in order!
Your task is to be able to recall all 54 digits after a 2 minute delay. Keep a log of your encoding sessions (record which numbers, on what day and how long you spent turning chunks into meaning) and your retrieval sessions (record the number of attempts and the number of digits you were able to successfully recall after a 2 minute delay).
Here’s an example of a training log for this activity:
Day 1 Sequence – 314159265
Encoding time: 8 minutes
Retrieval after 2 minute delay: 9 digits after 4 attempts
Day 2 Sequence – 314159265 358979323
Encoding time: 7 minutes
Retrieval after 2 minute delay: 18 digits after 6 attempts.
Complete an intense combination of exercises during the 2 minute delay for even more brain benefits!
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