Tag Archives: Long Term Memory

4 Tips on Overriding Your Hippocampus

There is a part of your brain, the hippocampus, that plays as a gatekeeper keeping short term memories from entering your long term memory. It also does other things, but for now it’s just a gatekeeper.

I find illustrations of the hippocampus not very helpful (A.K.A. BORING) and instead imagine a hippo in Roman gladiator battle gear slaying an endless oncoming barrage of useless memories. He’s a champion in my mental Colosseum and his name is Hippopotamus Campus.

If you can imagine Hippopotamus Campus, then good. The following will be helpful. If your mind rejects Hippopotamus Campus, then good. Your hippocampus is working and Hippopotamus Campus is winning.

Whether you’re into my mental imagination or not is irrelevant. With the right tools and technique, you can make your mind into a beastly trap that dwarfs even the legendary poke’mon master ball.

Tips and Tricks

Storing things into long term memory is easy. And as I mentioned in my long term memory article, it’s safe to assume you’re not going to run out of mental disk space anytime soon. So don’t hold back, and go all out:

1. Be interested

Being interested arms the information in your short term memory with a sense of importance. Memories such as near death experiences, or romantic first kisses have a tendency to stick in your head.

If you don’t care, your chances of remembering are as bad as remembering where the attendant crew was pointing to while wearing a silly yellow rubber duck floating device.  (Virgin America got it down right with their music video.)

2. Use your senses

The more vivid you can make something appear in your imagination, the more likely it’s going to pass through the gatekeeper.

Leveraging the strength of visual and spacial parts of your brain are key if you want it to stick. Try to make the best mental movie you can of what you’re trying to remember. With enough cues, you should be able to reproduce the movie back into it’s original form.

3. Ask a genius question

Use one of the two questions every genius always asks. “How is this like something I already know?” Not only does it allow you to rapidly understand something new by finding likeness, but also it attaches a new memory to an already existing one en-strengthening both of them.

4. Person Action Object

The Person Action Object technique are used by Memory Champions in the Memory Olympics (yes, it’s real. No, they’re not all geeks. Some of the are body builders and mountain climbers.).

It uses the power of chunking by taking a person, and object, and an action and combining them into one memory.

Elon Musk eating a Spaceship.
Steve Jobs stomping on the apple watch

These things tend to stick in our heads. The more bizarre, the better.
Applying this technique can allows champions to to remember anything from a shuffled deck of card in a couple of minutes (the world record is under 21.90 seconds), to an auditorium of hundreds of audiences names and faces.

Needless to say, these tools can all be applied in everyday life and make you seem like you’re on Nootropics

Long Term Memory

Capacity of Long Term Memory

Scientists say that our brain can hold up to 100 billion neurons. If we compare the human brain to a computer, scientists speculate the storage limitation is between 1 terabyte to 2.5 petabytes.

KB 1,000 bytes
MB 1,000,000 bytes
GB 1,000,000,000 bytes
TB 1,000,000,000,000 bytes
PB 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes

But those are just numbers. What do they even mean?

One petabyte can store roughly, 13 years of HDTV content. Or as gizmodo says, 58,292 movies. In 2013, Google’s entire satellite mapping and 3-d viewing is 20 petabytes. The truth is, no one really knows the exact limits of a healthy fully developed human brain, and that scientists will agree that we won’t be running out of memory in one lifetime.

Life Span of Long Term Memory

Unfortunately, not all long term memories are created equal. A long term memory’s life span can range from a few days to decades. It all depends on how strong the memory was when it was created (how many hooks, cues, and other memories are attached to it), how many times it’s been traversed over (how many times it’s been revisited), and whether it’s been attached to newer memories. So whether or not you remember something ‘forever’, or until you die, is up to how you maintain your memories.

Leveraging Long Term Memory as a Tool

One of the two ‘super-tools‘ I’ve noticed the fastest learners of our time use is the question, “How is this something like I already know?”. It jogs their existing long term memory, making the new information easy to digest and store, and merges the two memories (new and old) together for quick access and better long term storage..

I highly recommend use it anytime you learn something new and leverage the power of existing long term memories.

Types of Long Term Memory

Long term memory can be broken down into Procedural Memory and Declarative Memory.

Procedural memory is remembering how to do things. Ride a bike, brush your teeth, drive a car, etc. Anytime you acquire a skill, it’s being stored in your long term procedural memory.

Declarative Memory, sometimes known as explicit memory,  is when you remember what something is. It can be either semantic or episodic.

  • Semantic memory is information stored about the world. Names of countries in the world, names of celebrities or people in your life, what your gender is, etc.
  • Episodic memory is remembering something that happened in the past. It is where all of our memories about our past experiences and life events are stored. Typically when you hear someone say, “remember the time when…” they are accessing their long-term episodic memory.

Typically, when someone gets amnesia, they’re declarative memory is damaged but their procedural memory remains more or less intact. For example, in retrograde amnesia, people are unable to recall the past, but their skills set is roughly unaffected.  Similarly, in anterograde amnesia, the person is no longer able to store declarative memories, but their procedural memory is once again roughly unaffected.