How to build a memory palace to remember more of everything

In Sherlock the BBC TV series the protagonist Sherlock and the villain Magnussen are able to recall information from their mind similar to searching for a file in Windows. Is this really possible? If yes then I would be very much interested in knowing how to do this. )

Let me clarify that this has nothing to do with having Idetic memory as it is mentioned by Sherlock that the memory palace is a technique and not a god gift.

How to build a memory palace to remember more of everything

6 Answers 6

Yes.

To quote from The Independent about the source of mind palaces:

As it turns out, memory palaces like Holmes’ are a real thing, and have been for thousands of years. It all began with a lucky escape from a collapsing banquet hall by the Ancient Greek poet Simonides, who realised that by visualizing the room where the accident happened, he could perfectly recall the names of all his squashed fellow revellers. He later found a less morbid use for this discovery, by associating things he wanted to remember with walks through buildings he knew well.

The article goes on to describe how many mental athletes around the world use this technique to compete in memory championships, before interviewing a collection of these athletes.

Finally, to use the article’s rather lovely conclusion as to why a palace could be useful:

In fact, the ‘Sherlock’ series 3 finale hinted at the prestige knowledge can have in the digitized world: sometimes the only truly safe place to keep information is your own brain. Also, knowing the number for a cab company is very helpful at 3am when your phone is dead. Long live the mind palace.

For more information, you can look up the Method of loci, which is what the memory palace is more traditionally known as. To quote from the Wiki:

‘The method of loci’, an imaginal technique known to the ancient Greeks and Romans and described by Yates (1966) in her book The Art of Memory as well as by Luria (1969). In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject literally ‘walks’ through these loci and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any distinguishing feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items. The efficacy of this technique has been well established as is the minimal interference seen with its use.

The page also has an interesting collection of movies and television shows where the technique has been used.

As for learning it yourself? Try this article from Remember Everything

A mind palace consist of two steps: first, you imagine a location (loci, palace) real or fictitious and second, you must imagine a image association to your topic to memorize inside the location. Also, you need to make encoding to make your memorization simpler and quicker. The method of loci use the

First let’s refer to the characters: Sherlock and Magnussen. They both memorize the information, it is not deduced. Though in the case of Sherlock if you are dedicated enough to memorize MO of criminals, statistics and more, it is understandable that he’d be able to make quick correlations between what he remembers and the problem at hand. Magnussen acquired information and memorized it, that’s very ound. Both ways can be achieve with a lot of practice and dedication, unless you have curse gift (you have some autism plus better brain activity in memory).

Though thinking about how to survive a gunshot in 5 seconds (s2:e2) that’s highly improbable.

For more about the method of loci and great feats of some famous mnemonists:
According to Pliny the Elder:

  • The king Cyrus (memorized his army of 10k immortals)
  • L. Scipio (could name the citizens of Rome, 200k+)
  • The king Pyrrhus (knew the name of many in the city, the senate, the chivalry)
  • The king Mithridates (reigned over 22 nations and commanded in their languages)
  • Charmidas(remembered the contents of books word by word)

Other mentions: Simonides Melicus, Metrodorus of Scepsis, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Cosmos Rossellius, Mateo Ricci(A Treatise On Mnemonics), Giordano Bruno, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Robert Fludd, Johannes Romberch.

Note: I use this technique in my personal life for studying, knowledge and self development. An example of the effectiveness of this: I memorized the formulas of a class of math, then did the exercises from memory and in the exam I didn’t even need to visit my palace, I have it integrated the information in my mind like if I knew these for a long time.

Create Your Own Memory Mind Palace

How to build a memory palace to remember more of everything

The secrets of the Memory Mind Palace

The graphic above says, ‘Sherlock Holmes Mind Palace Secrets Revealed’ and I like to have fun with that because he surely made the term Mind Palace more popular. The idea of Sherlock storing all kinds of data in his brain using a Mind Palace has intrigued the fans of Sherlock since it first debuted.

However, in reality Sherlock Holmes (or should be way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) did not come up with the idea or term Mind Palace. It is a system that has been around at least 2500 years and dates back to at least 477 B.C. and a man named Simonedes.

As the story goes, Simonedes was in a room and the roof collapsed and crushed everyone except him. He then was able to identify the bodies based on where everyone was sitting. The light bulb went off in his head and he wondered, ‘Could I remember anything by mentally placing it in a location in the room as I remembered these people based on where they were in the room.’ Whether this story is true or not it does illustrate very well how the idea of the Mind Palace works.

How to build your own Memory Mind Palace:

  1. Stand in the doorway of every room in your home starting in a logical spot (front door, front of house, your bedroom, etc)
  2. In that room select 5 items. Select big items (not small) and spread them out around the room numbering them 1-5. For example, good items to select are: desk, bed, tv, picture, computer, stove, refrigerator, microwave, bookshelf, computer, chair, couch, stove, shower, closet, etc.
  3. Repeat in the next room numbering the 5 items 6-10. In the next room number the items 11-15, the next 16-20, the next 21-25 and so on.
  4. Once you have numbered the items close your eyes and say the furniture and number of each item. Do this 4-5 times until you are confident you know it. (More times if needed and say it backwards just to insure you REALLY know it)
  5. A common objection to the Mind Palace is that you have to memorize a map of your home and that is too much work but it’s not true! You already have your home memorized! You just don’t have it numbered and that is what you are doing here.
    (to get my full ebook on this go here https://memorise.org/memory-training/sherlock-mind-palace

How to Use The Memory Mind Palace:

  1. Now whenever you want to memorize something you visualize it on your furniture that you have numbered.
  2. Let’s say you have 10 words you want to memorize and the 8th word is dog. If the 8th piece of furniture in your home is desk then you imagine your dog interacting with that desk with tons of action and emotion (the more action and emotion the better). Maybe not just barking but growling and biting too. You remember action/emotion. For example, have you ever been in a car accident? Was it day or night? Where did it occur? How? I bet you know because the action/emotion cemented it in your memory. But where did you drive last Tuesday? You don’t know. No action/emotion
  3. Important: If number 9 is water and your number 9 furniture is your computer imagine the water on your computer (because it is #9). Don’t put it on the furniture in your house where it makes sense (sink, refrigerator, etc). Instead, put it on the furniture in the number order it is on the list not where it makes sense in your home! 🙂
  4. Here is a 6 year old who used this method to memorize the presidents of the United States. Notice her looking at the furniture and saying the president. Check it out

Uses for the Memory Mind Palace:

  1. If you want to give a speech take the 10 things you want to talk about, create pictures for them and see them on your furniture. For example, you want to talk about ‘Time Management’ as your #3 point. See a clock on the #3 piece of furniture in your home. When giving your speech just think about your Mind Palace and give the speech without notes
  2. Study for a class. Maybe you want to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements. Here is how you could do that:

3. Or you wanted to memorize a poem or quote. Here is a video on that

4. How to Memorize a Deck of Cards with the Memory Mind Palace

I hope you see that the Mind Palace is a great tool and can be used for so many different things. It is an incredible skill and one that I am grateful to have learned in 1991. Since then I have used it to teach students to memorize information for school work and business professionals to become more productive.

I really do believe anyone can master these skills. Some have gotten really good and compete in national and worldwide memory tournaments.

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How to build a memory palace to remember more of everything

Photograph: Laurence Dutton/Getty Images

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Many people complain about having a terrible memory. Shopping lists, friends’ birthdays, statistics for an exam—they just don’t seem to stick in the brain. But memory isn’t as set in stone as you might imagine. With the right technique, you may well be able to remember almost anything at all.

This story originally appeared on WIRED UK.

Nelson Dellis is a four-time USA Memory Champion and Grandmaster of Memory. Some of his feats of recollection include memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, the order of more than nine shuffled decks of cards, and lists of hundreds of names after only hearing them once.

But with a little dedication, Dellis says, anyone can improve their memory. Here are five steps to follow that will get you filling your head with information.

Let’s start with a fairly simple memorization task: the seven wonders of the world. To memorize these, Dellis recommends starting by turning each one of those items into an easily-remembered image. Some will be more obvious. For the Great Wall of China, for example, you might just want to imagine a wall. For Petra, you might instead go for an image of your own pet.

“Using juicy mental images like these is extremely effective. What you want to do is create big, multisensory memories,” explains Julia Shaw, a psychological scientist at University College London and the author of The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory. You want to aim for mental images that you can almost feel, smell, and see, to make them as real as possible.

There’s science behind all of this. “Images that are weird, and maybe gross or emotional are sticky,” says Shaw. “When looking at the brain, researchers found that the amygdala—a part of the brain that is important for processing emotion—encourages other parts of the brain to store memories.” That’s why strong emotions make it more likely that memories will stick.

The next step is to locate those strong mental images in a setting you’re very familiar with. In Dellis’ example, he places each one of the seven wonders on a route through his house, starting with a wall in his entryway, then Christ—representing Christ the Redeemer— lounging around on his sofa. “The weirder the better,” Dellis says. In the kitchen, you might imagine a llama cooking up a meal.

This technique of linking images with places is called the memory palace, and it’s particularly useful for remembering the order of certain elements, says Shaw. “A memory palace capitalizes on your existing memory of a real place. It is a place that you know—usually your home or another location that you know really well.”

If it’s a list with just seven items, that space can be relatively small. But when it came to memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, Dellis had to widen out his memory palace to the entirety of his hometown, Miami. He divided the 10,000 digits into 2,000 chunks of five digits each, and placed them all across 10 different neighborhoods.

“Neuroimaging research has shown that people show increased activity in the [occipito-parietal area] of the brain when learning memories using a memory palace,” says Shaw. “This means that the technique helps to bring in more parts of the brain that are usually dedicated to other senses—the parietal lobe is responsible for navigation, and the occipital lobe is related to seeing images.”

Remembering seven weird images for the wonders of the world shouldn’t be too hard, but when you’re memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, you might need a little more motivation. “I would tell myself this mantra: ‘I want to memorize this, I want to memorize this,’” Dellis says. “It’s a simple mantra, but it would align my attention and focus on the task at hand and help me remember it better.”

With very large numbers like pi or a long sequence of cards, it also helps to break things up. Dellis turned each five digit chunk of pi into an image that he could easily remember. “Words are easy; you see a word and it typically evokes some kind of imagery in your mind. But things like numbers or cards or even names are a little trickier,” he says. “And those have systems that we’ve developed and learned so that whenever we see a name or a number or a card, we already have an image preset for it.”

Picture courtesy of Shanidar

You can also browse the best books I have seen on memory techniques and related areas here.

In this post I’ll teach you how to have perfect recall of lists of items. Length is not much of an issue, it can be your shopping list if 10 items or it can be a list with 50, 100 or even 1000. And in a forthcoming post I’ll show you how you how to apply this technique to learning new languages. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The technique we’ll be learning is called the memory palace, and is also known as the method of loci (for the latin word locus meaning place) and also the mind palace. A useful tool in everyone’s toolbox.

The memory palace

The memory palace technique began in the 5th century B.C., when Simonides of Ceos, poet, was attending an unfortunate banquet in Thessalia. While he was away to talk with a courier who asked for him outside, the hall’s ceiling crumbled, killing everyone. There was no way to recognise the corpses… Until Simonides realised that it was no problem to recall who was where, without having done any effort.

Think about it: It is not hard to remember who sits beside the host, where your friends sit, who is beside them and so on. This dawned upon Simonides, and he is credited as the “inventor” of the memory palace technique. Widely spread through antiquity, there was not a lot of written accounts on it: it appears in the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herrenium and Cicero’s De Oratore. It is not that strange that there were no written accounts, it is like writing a book about how to put your trousers on. Everybody knows how to do it.

The memory palace is well suited to how our brains have evolved. Back in our nomadic days we needed to know how to get somewhere (the lake, the plain) and remember what was there (fresh water, hunting). By taking advantage of this fact we can build an array of impressive memorisation techniques, to ordered or unordered lists.

Remembering lists may sound lame, who wants to memorise a list…? But lists are just an ordered array of knowledge. What you study for a history exam is a list of ordered dates accompanied by facts and causes (sub-lists). When you learn a new recipe, it is a list. A telephone number is a list of numbers. A poem is a list of phrases.

Your first memory palace: building and filling

How to build a memory palace to remember more of everything

Let’s start by creating our first memory palace. It does not need to be a palace, in fact, it should not. Just think of your home, and as a sample I’ll assume is really small: from the door you get to a small hall, connected to a living room which leads to a kitchen, a WC and a bedroom with a balcony. This is a sample, to memorise correctly you have to visualise your home or any other place you may know well. You can of course use this mental image of an imaginary house, but memorising may be harder, be warned.

Now consider the following shopping list: lettuce, bacon, onion rings, SD card and oranges. We want to memorise it. I picked a short list to make the post shorter and make it fit in our small imaginary home: try your hand with a longer list if you don’t believe we can do it with longer lists.

To remember the list, we have to place each item somewhere in our mind palace. This of course can mean one item per room or several items per room, each one in a special spot in the room. The simplest method is to put each item in its own room, when you are confident enough, create additional trapping space in each room. Thus, our small 5-room house could be easily a 5, 10 or 15 places memory palace.

To place an item, we have to visualise it in the room, and to make sure we remember it it has to be an extremely odd image. It has to leave a clear impression and to do so, it has to be surprising, bizarre or sexual, among other options. If the image is dull, remembering it is close to impossible.

Begin with the list. When we enter the front door, we are greeted by Kermit the frog, only that this special Kermit is made of lettuce, like a talking lettuce. Can you see it? Feel the freshness of Lettucit’s leaves? In the living room a stampede of pigs followed by Kevin Bacon with a fork should be bizarre and clear enough! In the kitchen, Scarlett Johansson plays hoola-hop with an onion ring. You enter the bedroom, and to your surprise, the bed is a gigantic SD card: you can hide the bed by pressing it in to be read. Finally, you open the balcony to find that the sun is now a big, luminous orange. It starts to drip juice over the desert in front of your window!

You should put all these images in a place you know like the palm of your hand: your home, the house you grew up, your office. This is important.

You may not believe it works at all, but you will be surprised. I wrote the first part of this post in the afternoon, and now more than 3 hours later I still can see clearly all the images. Of course this is a short list… But it would not matter: you could remember a list 5 times as long as easily as with this one.

Finding an array of memory palaces

To remember a lot of things you need to have a lot of places to put all these memories. You will need to find your own array of memory places. The first time I considered this problem, I thought about creating imaginary palaces, linked somehow by corridors. The problem? Artificial palaces get blurry fairly quickly, and you tend to forget them. It is far, far better to use real places, or at least places you can revisit in real life, like pictures from a book, levels in a computer game or buildings you can visit.

Then I started to think about houses and places I could use… And I found that there are plenty. I still remember school mates houses from 16 years ago, hotels I’ve been, buildings I have visited. I am sure you will find a huge array of places you can use. To begin with the technique, use known places, like your house or office and as you get more confident with the technique, start using older places.

Final words

You have to get the knack of the method. Get some degree of experience in converting everyday objects (like lettuce) into long-lasting impressions (like Kermit the lettuce-head). This only comes with practice, like walking around your images of memory palaces. Practice, practice, practice!

By the way, can you recall the shopping list above?

In case you want to read more:

I have written another related post called Remembering Facts: Using Mental Associative Chains, and also expanded the method to find memory palaces in Building Your Memory Palace Collection. You can also read a translation of this post in Spanish here: Aprende a recordarlo todo: el método del palacio de la memoria.

Learn the simple trick that will help you memorize anything—and that will make your presentations more memorable to your audience.

When presenting, it’s never a good idea to read from your slides or note cards. A few quick glances are usually acceptable. And if you read everything word for word, you will seem disengaged from the audience. Even though most presenters know this, the situation still seems unavoidable. What if you experience a mental block and forget an entire section of your presentation? You can’t be expected to memorize an hour-long speech that’s packed with crucial data. Is that even possible? If we were to ask the ancient Greeks and Romans, we would find that the answer is a loud “yes.” How did Cicero remember all of his famous orations? He used a technique called “the memory palace.”

While the term might be new to you, I’m sure you’ve seen this technique portrayed in popular media. The latest incarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character, Sherlock Holmes, uses it to solve the most complex mysteries. In BBC’s Sherlock, we watch Holmes sweep through imagined mental spaces to find crucial information that could help his investigation. In real life, the technique was used by the greatest Greek and Roman orators to memorize their speeches. Currently, “memory athletes” use it to memorize a deck of cards or a long list of random names in seconds.

HOW DOES THE “MEMORY PALACE” WORK?

The memory palace technique is formally known as the “method of Loci,” and this name gives us some insight on how the whole thing actually works. Loci is the plural form of the Latin word for location. Our spatial memory is much stronger than our memory for words or ideas, because our hunter-gatherer ancestors evolved to be able to navigate their world and remember their surroundings. When associated with spatial relationships, ideas become much more memorable—that’s why tools like Prezi, which allow you to show your ideas within context and lead your audience on a visual journey, can help make your presentation more memorable.

To practice the technique, imagine yourself walking through a specific location. You then associate each item you want to commit to memory to things you come across en route. Here’s an example from Chloe Cornish of The Independent:

So does the memory palace technique really work? I tried revisiting my secondary school, to help memorise the names of the U.S. Presidents in order (there are 44). To get into the car park, I jumped over a washing line (George Washington), where Adam and Eve (John Adams) were playing cricket with Geoffrey Boycott (Thomas Jefferson). Marilyn Manson (James Madison) was in the IT block getting off with Marilyn Monroe (James Monroe) etc. It took me about 40 minutes to come up with the lurid tale, and apart from occasionally getting their first names wrong (so many Jameses and Adams), it worked a treat.

To see this memory palace visualized, take a look at the prezi below:

SO HOW CAN I USE IT FOR MY PRESENTATION?

While creating a memory palace seems pretty straightforward, it actually takes a bit of practice and preparation. To start, create an outline of your presentation. List down all of your talking points and make note of the most prominent words for each one. You will use these words to make visual associations in your imagined scene. Following that, you can start with your mental construction:

1. CHOOSE ANY LOCATION YOU’D LIKE TO USE FOR YOUR MEMORY PALACE.

It’s better if you go with a place you’re completely familiar with, like your childhood home or the walk you take to the office.

2. SET A ROUTE THAT YOU WILL MENTALLY WALK THROUGH.

For example, if you’re using your childhood home as your memory palace, it can be the walk from the front door to your bedroom.

3. WHEN YOU’VE DECIDED ON A ROUTE, IMAGINE WALKING THROUGH IT AND FOCUS ON THE ITEMS AND FEATURES YOU “SEE.”

From the front door, you enter the hallway and climb the stairs to your right. You go up to the landing where a portrait of your grandfather hangs, and so on.

4. REFER BACK TO THE OUTLINE OF YOUR PRESENTATION.

Take the most important words you took note of and make visual associations you can insert to your memory palace. Place these associations in the specific features you’ve identified in your route. Try to place associations that are extraordinary, like in the example by Cornish.

5. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH YOUR MEMORY PALACE BY WALKING THROUGH IT A COUPLE OF TIMES.

Take note and memorize all the associations you’ve made. After some time, you will find that you’ve memorized your speech completely. Simply revisit your memory palace if you find yourself stumped during the presentation.

After building your memory palace, you won’t have to worry about forgetting what comes next in your presentation. Take a cue from some of the greatest minds in fiction and history, and you can save your note cards for another occasion.

You need to create a memory palace

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Memory. Some of us claim to have poor ones, while others seem to remember everything. But is a strong memory really something innate? Or something we can work at?

Despite what many of us think, studies suggest the latter.

What’s more, there are proven ways to improve your memory skills and one of the most effective is by using a technique known as creating a “memory palace.”

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The concept works as follows: When trying to remember, say, a shopping list, you need to visualise each item vividly in a place you know well, such as your living room.

So, if you need to buy eggs, you might imagine a hen laying eggs on your coffee table. Or if you’re out of orange juice, you might picture it splattered up the wall.

It’s not a new technique, but it’s favoured by the top memory athletes in the world and is proven to work.

According to a study published last year, anyone can use the technique to improve their memory and actually reshape their brain as a result.

Researchers recruited 23 of the world’s top memory athletes – to put their ability into perspective, memory champion Alex Mullen can memorise the order of a deck of cards in under 17 seconds – and compared their brains to those of “normal” people who’d never put any effort into their memory skills.

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They then put the normal people through a memory-training programme lasting six weeks to see how their brains would change.

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The researchers, from Radboud University in the Netherlands, found that the more the participants practised the exercises, the more their brains started to resemble those of the memory champions.

“These really incredible memory feats. are not some form of inborn talent,” said neuroscientist and lead study author Martin Dresler. “It’s really just training.”

What’s more, the participants were split into groups and given different memory-boosting techniques. Those who used the memory palace approach were found still to have their newfound skills four months later, whereas others had reverted to normal.

According to memory guru Tony Buzan, this six-week claim does overestimate how much time and effort it actually takes to make significant improvements to your memory, however it really does work.

The trick, Buzan explained to The Telegraph, is to “make it colourful, crazy, juicy, surreal, aromatic, sexy, sensual, active, moving, funny, ridiculous, cartoonish, fantastical,” when creating your memory palace.

So next time you forget your grocery list don’t panic – just remember everything in your memory palace. Orange juice up the wall and all.

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Clinicians often say their medical education felt like trying to sip water from a fire hose. As a student, you may feel you are just trying to keep your head above water. It’s all too easy to drown in information. That’s where the method of loci – or memory palace – comes in.

Last Updated: 05 April 2019

How to build a memory palace to remember more of everything

By Jordan G. Roberts, PA-C

This post contains affiliate links. That means we may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase through one of these links. We recommend you buy any of these products only if you feel they will help you achieve your goals.

What is Method of Loci aka Memory Palace Technique?

Clinicians often say their medical education felt like trying to sip water from a fire hose. As a student, you may feel you are just trying to keep your head above water. It’s all too easy to drown in information.

But does traditional medical education have to be so…hard? Boring? Both? Is there is a better way to learn the otherwise fascinating material other than endless study sessions hoping something sticks?

Just like modern medicine has held on to some archaic beliefs, so too has medical education, and educational theory in general. For example, you may have heard that you are either a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner.

Many of us even identify with one or more of these styles, but the evidence is less than convincing. We all probably use some degree of each one, and healthcare students may learn better using at least two.

However, there is a method that is almost magical in its ability to improve most folks’ memory capacity. This novel technique has been making its rounds through the neuroscience world to help you learn – and retain – more medical education knowledge than ever.

As part of a comprehensive study approach utilizing spaced repetition, high-yield question banks , and the method of loci (aka memory palace) technique, you can beat even the gunnest of the class gunners. Today, we will delve into the powerful method of loci, or memory palace, technique. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to apply it to your medical education immediately.

How to build a memory palace to remember more of everything

Why is it that you can perfectly recite the words to *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” but can’t remember the title of the new TV show you started watching on Netflix and wanted to tell your coworker about?

We remember things because they either stand out, they relate to and can easily be integrated in our existing knowledge base, or it’s something we retrieve, recount or use repeatedly over time, explains Sean Kang, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Education at Dartmouth College, whose research focuses on the cognitive psychology of learning and memory. “The average layperson trying to learn nuclear physics for the first time, for example, will probably find it very difficult to retain that information.” That’s because he or she likely doesn’t have existing knowledge in their brain to connect that new information to.

And on a molecular level neuroscientists suspect that there’s actually a physical process that needs to be completed to form a memory — and us not remembering something is a result of that not happening, explains Blake Richards, DPhil, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

In the same way that when you store a grocery list on a piece of paper, you are making a physical change to that paper by writing words down, or when you store a file on a computer, you’re making a physical change somewhere in the magnetization of some part of your hard drive — a physical change happens in your brain when you store a memory or new information.

“So the ultimate question, at the cellular level, as to whether or not a memory gets stored [in the brain] is does that process actually complete properly,” he explains. “Do all of the molecular signals get transmitted to ensure that that cell changes physically?”

So there are strategies for better organizing what may at first glance appear to be unrelated information to connect it to what we already know to help us better remember things, according to Kang and others. But as far as changing the physical processes in the brain that make memories stick, there’s likely not much you can do now to affect that, Richards says.

And that’s probably a good thing, he adds.

There may be a reason our brains forget things

In a recent paper, Richards and his colleague Paul Frankland, PhD, senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children and Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, looked at previous studies that have investigated the physical changes in the brain associated with memory — and why sometimes that process completes and sometimes it does not. “We found that there’s a variety of mechanisms the brain uses — and actually invests energy in — that undo and override those connections, ultimately cause us to forget information,” Richards says.

And that would mean that some “forgetting” is actually a very natural and normal process, rather than a “failure” of our memory, Richards says. “Our brains may want us to remember the gist of what we’ve experienced because that will be most adaptive for making decisions in the real world.”

For example, let’s say you remember a friend’s phone number, but that friend moves away and gets a new phone number. Remembering the old number becomes useless and may make it more difficult to remember your friend’s new number.

“It’s not the case that as much forgetting as possible is good, obviously,” he says. “But at the same time it may not be the case that as much remembering as possible is always the best course either.”

From where you parked your car to the password for your Facebook account, the sheer number of things you have to remember each day is pretty astounding.

So if you are having trouble keeping some of these details sharp, chances are you’re not alone.

But there is a group of people whose main goal is to make what you see and hear stick. These “memory athletes” travel the world to showcase their skills — and a group of them is set to compete this June 24-26 in San Diego, California as part of an event called the Extreme Memory Tournament.

But these memory champions also have some great advice for the rest of us. Here are five simple strategies for remembering things you’ve learned.

1. Create a memory palace.

The memory palace is based on the idea that our spatial memories are much stronger than our memories for specific words or objects. You can probably easily recall, for example, where in your home you store your holiday decorations or your office supplies, says World Memory Champion Alex Mullen. And you can apply this innate ability to other harder-to-recall things, like a list of groceries.

Try it: Take your list (let’s say it includes apples, paper towels, bread, and milk) and, as you walk through your home in your mind, create a scene of each grocery item in each space. In the living room, for example, you might imagine a group of kids bobbing for apples, while in the dining area you picture each furniture item covered in rolls of paper towels. Next you approach your bedroom, where you picture a giant laying on your bed while snacking on loaves of bread. In the bathroom, you see the sink and bathtub overflowing with milk.

2. Think of a scene.

We form visual memories much like how a camera records an image: What we see gets imprinted, kind of like a photograph, in a specific set of brain cells in our hippocampus, deep inside the brain. This process is called encoding.

The reason we misplace things like our keys, wallet, phone, or car so often is because we store so many similar versions of those memories. Think of how many times you’ve parked your car or tossed your keys somewhere. Your brain has encoded thousands of those memories. Over time, they begin to blur.

To improve your memory, you have to be able to keep those recollections apart. Next time you set down your keys, try creating a precise scene in your head, suggests US Memory Champion Joshua Foer. Take note of the surface on which you’re resting it. Is it wood, steel, or concrete? Red or blue? Is there a photograph or an object nearby that you can keep in mind?

3. Establish an emotional connection.

aving a sense of connection with an object or a place can help us remember details about it.

In a recent review, Harvard and MIT scientists compared how well people could remember photographs against how well they could recall the color of a few simple squares. Overall, people were far better at remembering details about the photos than they were at recalling details about the squares. Researchers think this discrepancy has to do with people’s ability to link things in the photos with their own feelings or memories, and therby keep the memory sharper.

4. Try a mnemonic.

If you’re trying to remember words in a particular order, try making an word out of each of the item’s first letters. One infamous example is using the name Roy G. Biv to remember the colors of the spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet).

“Mnemonics are not tools for learning per se, but for creating mental structures that make it easier to retrieve what you have learned,” write Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel, in the book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.”

5. Connect the new thing to older things.

Someone told to recall a man who is a baker is more likely to hold on to that memory than someone told to remember a person with the last name Baker, Foer says in a TED talk.

Because “the name Baker doesn’t actually mean anything to you,” Foer says. “It is entirely untethered from all of the other memories floating around in your skull. But the common noun baker, we know bakers. Bakers wear funny white hats. Bakers have flour on their hands.”

“The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to prior knowledge,” the authors of “Make It Stick” write, “the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later.”