A study of the method of loci, entitled “Mnemonic Training Reshapes Brain Networks to Support Superior Memory” published in the March 2017 issue of Neuron by scientists at Stanford University, the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, and the Donders Institute shows the effectiveness of mnemonic training, specifically the method of loci, which 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, testing their recall of words, 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.
This study does not include AR or VR elements, but it does emphasize the use of the method of loci, where mental images of locations are used to recall items. In our Loci software, we functionally support placing objects in places for later recall consistent with the method of loci.
At the University of Maryland College Park, Krokos et al recently published a paper “Virtual memory places: immersion aids recall“, which shows more than 8% recall improvement of a VR memory palace over a desktop memory palace.
The authors provide a nice overview of related work and then describe their study which compared desktop 3D scenes and virtual reality scenes (Head Mount Display – HMD) of a palace and a medieval town as locations to use the method of loci for recall.
The memory task the study participants were to do was recalling two sets of faces and names they saw in these two scenes after two minutes. Strangely, they allowed study participants to rotate their view, but not to translate (move around). Even with this limitation in their study, they found there was a statistically significant effect favoring the HMD (VR) display over the desktop display. Study participants were better able to recall items by 8.8% overall average difference using the HMD over the desktop display.
We have released Loci Memory Palace app for Windows Mixed Reality, which is a virtual reality memory palace populated with nodes and links that are part of your mind map graphs. With Loci Memory Palace, you can move around your memory palace and make mind maps by placing nodes in locations that help you recall. Our Loci app is available now on the Microsoft Store here.
With Loci Memory Palace, you can load images from files and place them in the memory palace, moving yourself and the nodes around in full six degree of freedom. When compared to the conditions of this study, there is more involvement of your body in placing, naming, editing, and associating nodes, and because of this embodiment, involving more of your senses and thoughts, an even greater improvement in recall from using Loci than this study is likely. Your recall of your notes and ideas is available to you even when you are not using our software.
Abstract:Virtual reality displays, such as head-mounted displays (HMD), afford us a superior spatial awareness by leveraging our vestibular and proprioceptive senses, as compared to traditional desktop displays. Since classical times, people have used memory palaces as a spatial mnemonic to help remember information by organizing it spatially and associating it with salient features in that environment. In this paper, we explore whether using virtual memory palaces in a head-mounted display with head-tracking (HMD condition) would allow a user to better recall information than when using a traditional desktop display with a mouse-based interaction (desktop condition). We found that virtual memory palaces in HMD condition provide a superior memory recall ability compared to the desktop condition. We believe this is a first step in using virtual environments for creating more memorable experiences that enhance productivity through better recall of large amounts of information organized using the idea of virtual memory palaces.
Image of training and test memory palaces for this post is from this paper, used under creative commons license.
We are proud to announce a mixed reality headset version of our Loci product, called Loci Memory Palace.
Loci lets you link your ideas in augmented or virtual reality, improving recall and links (associations) in your mind. It is an interactive 3D mind map in mixed reality. It runs on Windows Mixed Reality headsets with your Windows 10 PC.
In version 2018.8.1, we have added initial capability to import MindManager, Freemind/FreePlane, and GraphML files. You can say “load graph” or press Ctrl-L on the keyboard and select .mmap, .mm, or .graphml files for import, along with .loci files now. The GraphML importer supports nodes and edges, but does not yet support hyper-edges or ports.
It is available for download on the Windows Store from Microsoft here.
The headsets are available from HP, Lenovo, Dell, Samsung, Acer and others listed below, for an average of about $300 for a headset. These mixed reality headsets use cameras to sense your surrounding area and position you in a room from the inside out, requiring much less setup than most VR headsets.
We provide a virtual reality location for your ideas and thoughts called the Memory Palace, so you can use the method of loci with immersive virtual reality mind maps.
Updated Voice and Gaze Commands
We updated the set of commands available in the mixed reality memory palace version to reflect capabilities available in that version, the new picture showing commands is below.
Usage in head set with controllers
Use your hand controllers to jump to locations in the Memory Palace, look at a location on the floor and your cursor will follow, then press forward on the controller joy stick to jump to that location.
Use the voice command “add node” to place nodes in the palace rooms. Put in several nodes, one for each thought, then look look at the first node and say “link this”, then look at the next node so the cursor is on it, and say “to that”, and you will see a link appear between them. Gaze at one of the nodes to put the cursor on it, and say “select” to move the node, and the links will update with the node. You are building a mind map graph where the nodes have 3D locations in the memory palace.
This version requires Windows 10 Creator’s build, a compatible Mixed Reality Head Mount Display and Controllers, and ideally a graphics card such as NVidia 1060. Most commands use gaze and voice, but moving around in the MR scene is done with the Controllers similar to the way you move and rotate in the Cliff House starting scene. Controllers are usually sold with Mixed Reality headsets.
We added mind map and graph imports. Also, with the Creator version of Windows 10, the Load and Save File Picker has better functionality, you can now change the name of the saved file, and both “load graph” and “save graph” come up more reliably with a file picker. Evidently these bugs were fixed in the required separate Onedrive Windows File Picker service.
The first time you run Loci Memory Palace, it will start slowing as the operating system optimizes it for later loads, and you should run it until it shows a dialog box asking to allow voice input, use controller to select “yes” or say “yes”, then you will see the memory palace scene, and then you should exit to the Windows cliff house (HoloShell) by saying “go to start”, then look at the Loci window and say “select” to return back to Loci.
By doing this the Microsoft voice recognition service will work correctly, it seems to provide a reset for it to work after that point. We are still tracking this one down, as it did not happen in earlier versions of Loci. Also, it will be necessary to turn speech services on in your settings, see the fix here.
The HoloShell / Cortona reserved voice command word “select” is not always available while running our app for some reason. It is the default Windows 10 way to select nodes, by gazing so the cursor is on the node and then saying “select” to pick or place a node. Alternatively you can try our voice commands “pick node” and “place node” when moving nodes and select is not available.
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.
Our Loci app is available now for Windows Mixed Reality on the Microsoft Store here. 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.
On April 15, 2017 we published version 1.0 of the Loci universal windows application for HoloLens on the Windows Store. Loci lets you create mind maps in mixed reality where you place the mind map nodes in your home or office in locations that have meaning to you. Using locations in this way, as a form of method of loci, where you associate your thoughts and ideas with locations, has been shown to increase your recall of them later.
Our Loci application allows you to create and edit mind maps in mixed reality. You save and load these using OneDrive. The primary way to interact with Loci is using voice and gaze, and the current supported language is English. To understand how Loci works, it has a free one day trial.