Your Brain, Memory and Grid Cells

A husband-and-wife team of brain researchers has discovered a kind of brain cell that goes a long way to explaining how memory works and how you can remember things better.  May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser have been researching the brain since 1988, and in 2005 they announced the discovery of so-called grid cells.  These grid cells create a direct, intuitively simple map of everywhere you go, basically, sending the data to your hippocampus, the seat of memory and emotion in your brain.

What it suggests is that memory is tied directly to location (and emotion), so that the ancient Renaissance trick of remembering things by placing them in various rooms of a familiar house is an excellent way of exploiting the natural resources of the brain to improve retention of information.

Additionally, many actors find that remembering lines is much easier when tied to the stage action, or blocking.  You pair a line with an action, saying, “Can I pour you one of these, darling?” while gesturing toward the drinks tray.  After enough rehearsal, the gesture prompts the line.

If the origins of memory are in location, then public speakers should pay more attention to the choreography of their speeches, making the connection between what they’re saying and where they are on stage explicit.  In addition, if you think about moving toward the audience on important points, and away from the audience on transitions or changes of subject, then you can also use the choreography to make your ideas clearer to your audience.  That’s because we naturally pay closer attention to people moving toward us or nearer to us.

Part of your brain is engaged in constantly mapping where you are and storing that map in memory.  Use that map to improve your retention of the ideas and concepts you wish to remember.  And use it to better communicate with others.

For further reading see: A Sense of Where You Are, NY Times, April 29, 2013 »

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