The Synergy Between Nootropics and Mnemonics

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The Synergy Between Nootropics and Mnemonics

Mnemonics vs Nootropics

A brain boost. Improved ability to recall. Complex strategizing. Since at least the ancient Greeks, mankind has tried to improve mental prowess. The Greeks taught a technique, still used by top chess strategists, law students studying for the bar, and many others: loci. Pronounced “low-key” the word is the root of the word “location.” Today, the technique is also known as “mind palace,” “memory palace,” or “memory journey” technique. In loci, you visualize a spacious house, (a palace, perhaps), where information is kept in various rooms. Then, when you need to recall the information, you journey back through the rooms. Yes, very similar to Benedict Cumberbatch’s rendition of Sherlock Holmes and the “Mind Palace” episode.  Today the technique is classified as a mnemonic. Combined with nootropics, such techniques can enhance both short and long-term memory. And it’s easier than you might think.

Easy Mnemonics

We have all learned information with mnemonics. The word “mnemonic” just means “anything which assists the memory.” It comes from the Greek word mnēmonikós, which means “relating to memory.” It’s formed from mnēmon- “mindful” plus -ic (a suffix turning words into adjectives meaning “having some of the characteristics of”).  When you learned the ABC’s you probably learned them to a familiar tune, the tune “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Incidentally, that tune is often attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but was a folk song on which he wrote many variations. You probably know at least three variations in English--the two just named and also “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.” Mnemonics can help with dates, such as, “In the year of 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”  Like the ABC song, the patterns and rhythms of rhymes connect deeply in the brain and make memorization easier. Now, if all of that--the suffix in mnemonics, the three songs with the same tune--seems like a lot of information, that’s because neuroscientists have discovered that the more information we have about something--placement context--the more likely we are to remember it. Think of that Mozart data as being similar to the “memory palace”--you are giving your brain rooms in which data connects via hallways to other data. Other mnemonic techniques include:
  • Alliteration - You meet someone named “Sarah” who smiles, so you say to yourself, “Sarah smiles” and when you next see her you remember the alliteration, assisting you to remember the name.
  • Organization - Instead of just memorizing a long list, you group the data into smaller segments. For example, phone numbers are grouped into 3 and 4 digit groupings, which are easier to remember.
  • Acronyms - From the colors in the rainbow (ROY G BIV) to the Treble Clef staff (FACE in the spaces, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, or Every Good Boy Does Fine, depending on how you learned it), we grow up with many acronyms. You can learn to create your own to memorize new data.
  • Connections - Another common technique, connection (or association) mnemonic techniques find something in the data that connects to other information you know. Eg longitude and latitude, LONG-itude reminding you which one stretches between the poles or looking at your hands and seeing that your left hand makes a capital “L,” as a way to remember left from right.
Discovering which mnemonics will work for you is simply a matter of understanding yourself and then practicing.  What do you naturally remember well?  Images? Like people’s faces, the floor plans of the houses where you have lived and streets of cities? Then loci and connection techniques may work best for you. Do you visualize words? Then acronyms and also association techniques focusing on the words themselves, may be your best options. Are you the kind of person who knows the lyrics to many songs, even ones you haven’t heard in years? Then rhyming, organization and music techniques may work best for you. Once you determine what to try, the most important mnemonic is the one which you will use. Practice with mnemonic techniques is what makes them easier, and may even help with mood disorders, dementia and Alzheimer's. They’re a workout for your brain.

Combine Mnemonics and Smart Drugs

Nootropics, also known as “smart drugs” can fuel your brain. In the short term users often report more energy, greater focus, and improved mental stamina.  Cumulatively, the use of nootropic supplements can fill in nutritional gaps to aid brain function. By giving your brain the nutrition it needs, and an excellent regular mnemonic workout, you can experience the lasting benefits of better cognitive function. It’s YOU, but firing on all cylinders.

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