Have you ever worked with someone who appears to have a brilliant memory, remembering everything perfectly, recalling the precise information required at exactly the right time?
Their ability can be impressive and quite annoying, because it reminds us of our own imperfections in the memory department.
But what if you could improve your memory?
Could you be the next World Memory Champion?
Because the data is in supporting the idea that not only can you improve your memory, you could take it all the way to the Memory Olympiad if you wanted.
(Though I have always wondered what is it that feels so compelling to memorise 52- card decks or the entire contents of 18 volumes of Yellow Pages. Each to their own I say.)
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about World Champion Memory Masters is that they look so normal. You would be hard pressed to notice a WMC passing you by in the street.
Take Ben Pridmore for example, a three time World Memory Champion and an accountant. He may be brilliant at memorising card decks, but is the first to admit he's not as good at remembering other things especially names and faces. He is just as forgetful as we are when it comes to misplacing articles of clothing, losing his hat and forgetting why he walked into the next room.
What he does share along with other WMC is having a method of training to help him memorise large chunks of information. Research by Martin Dressler and his team recently published in Neuron examined 23 of the world's top 50 most successful memory athletes and showed how 6 weeks of mnemonic training led to changes in brain functionality that distinguished the memoriser group from others to enable them to develop superior memory performance.
What is this method used and beloved of memory champions? It's called the method of Loci whereby by travelling say around your home or local neighbourhood you look to create associations between particular locations and the information needing to be learned.
Todd Sampson illustrated this beautifully in the ABC's Redesign My Brain - Series One
Heck, if Todd S can make a significant improvement to his memory in three months, so can anyone else who is prepared to put in the training and the practice. It was a great example of neuroplasticity in action.
Dressler then looked to answer the question of whether non-memory champions could also improve their memory by using the same technique.
The answer was an emphatic yes.
In the study the subjects were divided into three groups.
Group A was instructed on using the Loci method for 30 minutes every day.
Group B was told to practice holding information without being advised about a particular strategy.
Group C didn't do any training.
The results showed the loci methodology was superior with Group A improving from an average of 26-30 words out of 72 remembered to an additional 35 words after 6 weeks of training.
Group B managed an increase of 11 words at 6 weeks and unsurprisingly the control group was unchanged.
Furthermore, brain scans from Group A showed an increase in brain activity that matched that seen in the elite memory candidates, with the improvement in memory persisting four months after the initial training.
So what does this all mean?
Well if the thought of entering all those memory competitions doesn't excite you, but you would still like to improve your memory, than trialling this method would appear to be something to try.
The question remains as to whether this translates into useful memory improvement for everyday life but is certainly something to be considered as an addition to the current toolbox we use to help keep our brains functioning at a higher level.