Contributing Author: Joseph Cooper, MD and Tammy Duong, MD
Overview: A central challenge in teaching and learning neuroscience is the depth and complexity of the material. In this regard, we are in good company: for thousands of years and in various contexts people have faced similar challenges. The ancient Greeks are well known for having developed mnemonic devices to assist with complex memory tasks. A lovely review of some of these techniques can be found in Joshua Foer’s article: “Secrets of a Mind-Gamer: How I trained my brain and became a world-class memory athlete”
(http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/02/20/magazine/mind-secrets.html?_r=0). As Foer describes, memory can be significantly enhanced “by constructing a building in the imagination and filling it with imagery” of what needs to be recalled. This imagined building has since been referred to as a “memory palace”. Moreover, in developing a memory palace, “the funnier, lewder and more bizarre, the better.” He goes on to explain, “When we see in everyday life things that are petty, ordinary and banal, we generally fail to remember them. . . . But if we see or hear something exceptionally base, dishonorable, extraordinary, great, unbelievable or laughable, that we are likely to remember for a long time.”
The following module is designed to apply these principles to the teaching and learning of neuroscience topics. The prototype session that we present is designed around neurodegenerative disorders but the same approach could be used for other disorders or for a wide range of other topics in neuroscience. Of note, we would emphasize the dual role that such a session can play: both for enhancing memory for specific content and also helping train participants in the process of applying mnemonic devices– the more one practices these techniques, the easier they become to apply to future content!
Author Affiliations: Dr. Joseph Cooper (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Assistant Professor and Director of Neuropsychiatry and Neuromodulation Services, as well as Assistant Residency Training Director in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago. Dr. Tammy Duong is a PGY4 resident at the University of Southern California and a 2015-16 NNCI Scholar. The National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative is a collaborative effort with the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training (AADPRT) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Council on Medical Education and Lifelong Learning and receives grant support from the NIH (R25 MH101076 02S1 and R25 MH086466 07S1) ©National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative.