Method of Loci

The method of loci is a memory technique used in ancient Greece and Rome where you imagine a building, and mentally place the items you must remember at locations in the building. Then later you recall these items as you mentally walk through the building and view them in the locations you pass. As this New York Times article on the method of loci describes, the first known published description of this method was in Rhetorica ad Herennium in 80 B.C.  Cicero also describes this method in his work De Oratore.

A study of the method of loci published in March 2017 by scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, the Donders Institute, and Stanford University on the effectiveness of the method of loci showed this technique results in significant recall improvement across time periods of twenty minutes, one day, and four months. Even after four months, the group using the method of loci had more than a 20% level of improvement in recall over the active and passive control groups.

The study included using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the subjects, and then comparing their before and after MRIs with memory athletes. They found the method of loci subject’s connections across brain centers came to resemble the memory athlete’s. In their study they show with a figure of the brain’s MRI connections the noticeable difference in connections between memory athletes and controls and indicate this improvement from using the method of loci may result from improved connections (links) across brain areas.

Using Loci, you link in your mind. You place nodes with camera or file images, web links, or text at locations in your home and office. You can link them to form mind map graphs or you can leave them unattached as a form of pinned note. In either case you have placed them in a location, reinforcing your memory of them for recall at any time, even when not using the Loci application. Furthermore, you can share your mind map graphs with others, taking the method of loci from one person’s internal thoughts to an external visualization that can be communicated digitally with other contributors.

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