Memory Palaces in Medical school

Hi all,

I have been using memory palaces extensively in medical school (in the USA) for the past 2.5 years. These techniques helped me obtain a >270 on USMLE step 1 and I was wanting to see if anybody else used these techniques in medical school and how they use them. I am also willing to answer any specific questions about what I did in med school to score 99th on boards. These techniques rock and can take the average person such as myself to extreme levels. Ask away!

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Could you describe an example of how you create and review a memory journey?

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Did you only memorize terms like normal vocabulary would be palaced? Or have you memorized images as well? Have you had to memorize anything other than definitions and images, and if so, what was it and how did you go about it?

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Hi there !
I’m a 4th year med student , you can say that I like always to score high , my last exams for microbiology went well too and got the prize over the class! I’m using memory techniques since 2015 , its helped me alot through my acadamic life.
For study I prefer to use fictional kind of Romanian Rooms for different e.g bacteria , like lets gonna say “nocardia” I will imagine some place (may be a real place or fictional one) that is somehow related to the name of the organism , for “nocardia” we can take piece of it “…cardia” and relating it to some place rememberable related somehow with the word , such like an O.R with a patient having an open-heart surgery , and transcript all the data of the organism into that imaginary place , like if it was gram positive or negative you should have a fixed picture for that like “crossed two swords” for a gram positive and a “candle” for gram negative , and then their sources like soil or a NF , its all a repeated data , with practice you will have your special way to do it.
For pathologgy it’s the same like let us say G6PDd anemia , we can imagine a sugar factory with a an A shaped tower with a “lighting sword” indicating the most common mutation (G6PDA-) , the factory suddenly have that strange shaped cubes of sugars (abnormal urine color) with drugs (oxidants) attacks the factory and so on!

Wish that could help

Another thing why I don’t use memory loci , because it takes TIME to construct but with Romanian Rooms , you can build one along the way , exactly when you are actually saving the information you will build your room piece by piece , it’s like mixing of simple story and romanian room , we can call it a story with a fixed place LOL!

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In response to josh.

Essentially I don’t really do memory journeys since things I am memorizing do not really require order (except algorithms but they are small enough to fit into one scene).

First what I usually do is find an area in one of my palaces (a wall, table, chair, desk, bed, some sort of storage unit such as a drawer and the like) and place my image of that disease there. That is the starting point. I occasionally forget where I put it (laziness and its just so much info and concentration can be difficult sometimes) but the end goal is to have the image stick in my head by using self monitored spaced repetition (I do not really use anki even though it is great).

So I start with making an image of what the disease unit I am trying to study is (lets say wilsons disease) something most med students have heard of but it has enough hard to remember information correlated with it that its a good example.
I have this disease placed in one of the nursing stations at a hospital I worked at prior to med school. My memory HOOK is wilson the volleyball off of castaway and also tom hanks. I picture them in the middle of my location just standing there to start. Everything that is going on in the image revolves around them and the end goal is when I hear wilsons disease is to recreate wilson and tom hanks in my head after which everything else should rematerialize when I need to recall it. I will break it down as follows
a black cat is my key code for the number 13 (I only have images for numbers up to 100 or so since thats all I really need in regards to medicine)
Wilsons disease is on chromosome 13- black cat playing with the wilson ball
mutation in ATP B7 gene- ATP= batteries, B= a bee, 7= boomerang. a battery powered B toy throwing a boomerang next to wilson
copper builds up in liver, and basal ganglia (mostly putamen) So tom hanks has a copper liver and copper putters in his brain (a putter is my image for the putamen)
copper build up causes cirrhosis= this goes without saying but lets make that copper liver nodular
the copper build up in the putamen causes psychotic like symptoms (relatively to patient’s baseline), irritability, and parkinson like issues- So essentially I picture Tom Hanks with swirly crazy eyes, while he’s looking all over the place all distracted and has cogwheels taped to all his joints while he walks around shuffling.
Labs- low cerumoplasmin- My picture for low is usually a RED pet cage with a down arrow door. So I have flubber in this cage (flubber just sounds like cerumoplasmin doesn’t it)?
high free copper (a ton of pennies floating around wilson the ball, and high urinary copper. a bunch of pennies in a piss puddle by tom hanks.
MOST copper is excreted by bile (so I put a gallbladder in a garbage can that wilson the ball is sitting on top of)

Tx- penicillamine- a bunch of pencils in a mine
trientine- three ents (either from lord of the rings, or warcraft 3)

as you can see this isn’t everything about wilsons but its enough to get most questions right and to diagnose it.

memory palaces are highly specific and honestly notable figures from movies and video games have provided my with a nearly unlimited supply of images to use.

I also use sketchy medical since they basically do the job for you. but the only issue is sometimes its better to personalize your memory palace to yourself and some of their images are messy. But I do mentally steal their images and use in my own mental palaces or “image capture” as I like to call them.

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Honestly it depends on the class. I try to turn new vocabulary into an image and I just repeat the word while building and visualizing the image. This usually makes it stick pretty quickly. It seems almost impossible for me to memorize vocabulary without an associated image but with images its very simple.

When it comes to memorizing images I feel sort of weak at that. Some people draw them out which works but honestly I use the same technique (for lets say anatomy) as I did for memorizing a path image capture.

For anatomy I turn each structure into some sort of simple image and imagine it in front of me. I sort of reverberate back and forth between the actual image, (lets say brachial plexus) and my image of each nerve root off of it. Anatomy questions in medical school are more often spacially oriented (knowing what is close to what) and most people can just memorize the images in the text books)
When it comes to innervation I would usually just place whatever image I have created for said nerve or blood vessel on whichever muscle I am trying to memorize the innervation of.
example (to clear the mud)- the triceps are innervated by the radial nerve. I picture the back of somebody’s arm with a trident on it and in between the trident tongs we have a pinwheel (my image for radial)

verbal mnemonics work well for anatomy but honestly this class gave me the most trouble.

For somebody studying anatomy( I did not realize this until I was studying for USMLE) I feel the best way is to use the body memory palace. Actually picture the organs and images on the person and use whatever visual means needed to remember their spacial orientation to each other. I will try to think of an example and come back later to this.

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I think roman rooms would be a relative equivalent to what i mentioned as image capture above, what do you think?

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Yeah that should work proberly but I recommend for you not to use furnitures or objects to store informations, because you mentioned some problems in locating the loci in your head, and that’s why I don’t use real places … for wilsons disease I will rather use a football stadium even though I’ve never seen one except in tv and go for the rest of the memorization … in that way you will probably will not have any problems locating that disease when you have to memorize it…

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Hi MemberBerries, thanks for posting on here.

I’m a medical student who will be taking the USMLE this cycle. I have started using memory palace and mnemonics to go through First Aid.

My process is pretty slow though to create images and I’m not sure I will have enough time to commit the whole book to memory palaces.

Did you apply your memory palaces to commit First Aid or another resource to memory?
If you used First Aid, did you commit the entire book or only parts of it?
Was your process lengthy for creating images or were you able to speed it up?

Thanks!

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it may only be 700 pages but it is a lot of info since it is 700 pages of charts and graphs. memory palaces/snapshops + visual mnemonics + spaced repetition are what I used.

It depends also if you are a USMD vs IMG. Most of first aid we learned in school prior to board prep but i always used the book it self as a refresher and had most of it memorized prior to step. You just have to do what you have to do to memorize and be able to differentiate the most common illnesses (UWORLD also important)

Hi everyone,

In my opinion WHY use a memory palace to memorize medical procedures and/or the body and physiology?

Images are needed and Association also.

The images of a cell, muscles on the skeletal frame, g.i. tract, etc. that you find in an A & P book or any First Aid procedures found in a First Aide book are their own best memory palaces!

Use them and post results here.

Stefos

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Usually for things like that I combine using different patients in different locations. If we used just a body to store all the different for say lung path it would all run together without using memory palaces. Same goes for physio and pharm/biochem. Not everything we can use the body palace for. I agree that for anatomy it is probably something that works though

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I memorized the abnormal RBC pathology using memory palace and it works pretty well. Its definitely a lot easier to reference for differential diagnosis than just thinking memory.

One thing that makes this studying faster is just using Sketchy and probably using Sketchy’s loci for when they show up in other pathology or pharm not covered by Sketchy but you want to make memory palace for.

It seems that memory champions are constantly pushing for faster methods of creating memory palaces, so they may have come up with systems or rules that help them go faster. Perhaps related to the method by which they choose images for loci.

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Have you ever tried to use these systems for other things such as ECG’s? Im a Paramedic in that works in rural Australia and Ive recently stumbled into this world. Im hoping these techniques can help me retain and improve some of the theoretical knowledge which is easy to get skill fade on with the reduced workload out here.

You can definitely do it for ECGs. I recommend just making a list of the information you need to learn, for example, like different PR interval characteristics related to certain types of blocks and then make a list of memorable imagery that connects to it for a memory palace or roman room. Then just review it a few times over the next week and month and apply it.

I still remember a bunch from the palace I made in February for abnormal RBC despite not really reviewing it much since but I could definitely use a refresher because I don’t remember everything.

Sketchy has gotten me a number of question bank answers.

I use a lot of spaced repetition with flashcards through Anki also. I recommend that as well.

Hey MemberBerries,

I’ve done a few NBMEs and there are certain topics that stick out to me that I think I should prioritize. I’ve noticed pharm, biochemistry, cardiovascular pathophysiology, renal pathophysiology, physiology in general, respiratory pathophysiology, and general pathology from the first few chapters of Pathoma.

There’s probably much in Heme Onc and Micro as well but I generally do better in those so I’m not too concerned about them.

Is there anything that stuck out to you? Basically, I am trying to decide what to focus on memorizing first (Highest yield) because right now I am kind of haphazardly memorizing random pages I think are important from First Aid.

Did you also feel like many questions you got simply from test taking strategies rather than memory? A number of questions I get right on NBME seem like I’m making educated guesses but if I knew the material better, I might have done better.

I would know first aid front to back and use world as a way to gauge preparedness and also to understand how in depth the level of questions are (IE how small of details one must memorize)

A lot of it is test taking strategy as you should be eliminating answer choices prior to answering each question. If you are unsure, flag it, do not answer it yet, and come back to it after finishing the block. that way you may give your mind time to retrieve the information you need to answer it from the subconscious

That’s amazing you guys. I graduated from med school last 2 year and only discovered this whole memory technique things. How much easier life will be back then if I knew!

Do you guys know of any method of logic based thinking that plays into test taking strategies?

I believe there is a certain way that philosophy students are taught to think in terms of logic that helps them think through scenarios that could apply to medical tests. These are skills likely used in debate, law, and computer science as well.

I feel that this would be helpful as I notice certain medical test questions where I know the information but may fail to rule out an answer (trying to make it fit the vignette) or fail to think through the logic and instead just think by association. It seems especially useful when coming down to the last two answer choices after ruling out the rest.

Hi, I am a sophomore in college and I’m going to be in the Medical profession for sure and I obviously need to do the MCAT to be a doctor but I can’t seem to reason it out yet.
Is there anything you recommend to do for the MCAT? Right now that is my biggest barrier