Published on May 2, 2013 | by Naz K Rasmussen

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Unleash your photographic memory

Dominic Clark

[image: Dominic Clark]

Vigorous bookworm-ing in our early years lead to speed-reading. Inherited talent explains a photographic memory.And emulating Busta Rhymes’s tongue-twisting verses (think Look at me now ft. Lil Wayne) is a sign of deep-rooted swag and make us green with envy.

These are things we wish we could do better, or just simply do. They represent intellectual capital that would afford us top-marks at university, broader career choices, and maybe a little more street credit.

They are, in fact, all myths.

The case for Mind Mapping 

For years we have waded through literature and math formulae in school, committing to memory the residue of our sieve-like brains. Teachers, for the most part, have offered consolation by way of constructive feedback, addressing the symptoms, rather than the root of the problem. Tony Buzan, a university student in the 1970s, took the matter into his own hands and studied the root; in the process he dissolved the myths surrounding memory.

Mr Buzan’s brain-sifting led him to develop simple techniques to learn speed-reading and photographic retention based on advanced understandings of what fuels the mind. With fewer scientists believing the mind is organised into left and right-sides, the brain is now seen as a distributed network of circuits spanning across both hemispheres. Highlighting a single side of the brain is an oversimplification, at best.

Our school systems admittedly need an overhaul to implement these developments. On the bright side – it’s never too late to become an autodidact genius.

“Your brain is an extraordinary, super-powered processor capable of boundless and interconnected thoughts: if only you know how to harness it, studying will cease to be a fraught and stressful exercise, and will be fast, easy and fruitful.” Tony Buzan

Britain’s memory guru coined the term Mind Map in 1974 in his book and BBC TV series Use Your Head. Mind Mapping is a graphical exercise designed to organise and catalogue notes from lectures, or anything else you want to remember.

ALN  interviewed students at the LCC to hear what study techniques they practice, and what areas of their study processes they would like to improve on.

Get the lowdown on LCC’s study habits:

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How it works

To create a mind map you draw a picture of what you want to learn, in the centre of a sheet of paper. Then you draw branches that radiate out from the image, and off these lines you draw another series of mini-branches. Each branch represents a central topic. The mini-branches are ideas associated with them.

The key to creating a successful mind map is in the colours, symbols, and drawings you attach to the branches. Phillip Chambers, 2002 world mind-mapping champion and accelerated-learning trainer at Learning Technologies in Middlesex, said in a BBC interview: “While traditional learning such as taking notes uses very few of the brain’s resources, mind maps encompass all the skills, combining logic, words, colour and pictures.”

To retain all the information in our long-term memory (a good mind map can sum up an entire reference book), Chambers says you have to revise the image five times the day after you learnt it, then a week later, a month later and then three months later.

The Memory Championships

Tony Buzan kicked off the first World Memory Championships in 1991. The competition consists of ten different disciplines ranging from memorising one-hour numbers, to random lists of words.

In the book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, an American science journalist gives readers a fascinating account of a year-long quest to improve his memory. His goal: to win the U.S.A. Memory Championship in 2011.

The book came to be after Joshua Foer, unversed in mind mapping, met Tony Buzan while researching the phenomenon for an article in 2010. What started out as an innocent challenge by Mr Buzan: for Joshua to learn mind mapping and enter the competition, turned into a year-long, self-imposed tutelage to memory methods. A year later, the journalist had become a fully-fledged master mind, culminating with a gold medal at the U.S.A. Memory Championship.

While our schools raised us to be cerebral cavemen, Mr Buzan has given us sophisticated tools to outwit the mental stone age. What started as a university student’s desire to challenge the conventions, has, in effect, resulted in a democratisation of the photographic memory and speed-reading.

The myths have been debunked and there are no longer any excuses to be a closet–”if only”– optimist. The elixir guaranteed to achieve an unlimited memory is a mere book away.

With a new-found ability to boost your street smarts and recite Rhymes, I leave you to practice this (you know you want to).

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