Memory – Encoding – The Loci System

by pre., Friday, March 7th, 2008.

Human brains do not remember things in the same way that a computer, or a video camera, or a gramophone record remembers things. You do not stream data directly into some permanent storage for later recall. When you remember something your brain in fact increases the associations between items already encoded in your memory. When you later try to recall the memory, it’s the strength of these associations which feed back the stored items to your conciousness and allow you to reconstruct and re-imagine the thing you tried to remember.

This is great, and works very well for recalling things like the gist of stories, how to operate your television or how to get to your friend’s house. It works much worse for more abstract things though, things like author’s names, what you had for lunch yesterday, what time that show you want to watch is being broadcast, or the actual address and postcode of your friend’s house.

The Loci system is designed to take difficult abstract things and give you a way to associate them with a given well memorised list of things, so that you can run though the well remembered list and recall all those more abstract things you have associated with each.

One things the brain does remember reasonably well is where things are and what things are in a given place. You may not believe it when you’re hunting high and low for your car keys, but nevertheless it’s true. Think right now of where your phone is, or where those unfortunate trousers you’ve never actually worn have been for the last few months. Think of the list of things that are in your kitchen drawer. You will remember most of those things, because they are of an associative nature. You think of the phone, and things like it’s location automatically come to mind, we have evolved to do this kind of thing well.

The Loci System demands that you use a well known route, a list of places, and associate the abstract things you wish to remember with one of those places. To do this you use your imagination and visualisation abilities to see something that represents that abstract thing at the location, actually in the location. In your mind you see that location as if the thing were there. Then to recall the abstract thing you just have to remember how you last saw that location, what things are stored in it.

To learn this system we will use a list of ten loci (places). A suitable list of places may be your route home from work or the route to your friends house. Your list of locations will likely include each corner you must turn, each landmark you must pass, even each door you must open if needed, so long as you have ten different, distinct locations to use in that route. Call this route your “Loci Map”

If you were playing the generation game and were asked to remember a list of objects as they pass on a conveyor belt you might try repeating the things to yourself, or concentrating hard on the things as they pass. These systems will likely not work well though. If you were to use The Loci System you would vividly imagine each of the objects as they pass in one of your list of places in your loci map. The kitchen-set at the bus-stop, for instance. The Cuddly Toy buying a holiday at the corner shop.

Now recalling the list of items is just a question of imagining yourself walking home from work, remembering all the strange things you saw last time you took the route, as the conveyor belt rolled on. People find this a much simpler task.

You can use the Loci System to remember all kinds of things; to-do lists, the events of a party, shopping lists, etc. Just strongly imagine seeing the thing you want to remember in one of the places in your route.

People who have used the Loci System extensively recommend having an extensive list of routes, and spending time wondering through them refreshing the contents of each location as often as you can. When waiting for a bus perhaps, or while there’s a commercial break on the television. The more often you refresh the things in your list, the more likely they will be to stay there and, as a bonus, if that’s a todo list you’re more likely to do the things on it.

The only trouble is remembering to use the system when you have things to remember.

This Month’s Guided Meditation File

We present an mp3 designed to help you practice using the Loci System, and furthermore load your brain with suggestions to make it actually use the system more in daily life. You’ll need to have a route in mind when you listen to the file, with at least ten locations on that route.

The monologue will take you through each of those locations, giving you a short time to imagine seeing the things you have stored in that location, slowly going through each spot and then more rapidly going backwards through the route.

Because much of the consolidation of our memories goes on in our dreams, the monologue then goes on to suggest that you’ll dream aboute those locations, the contents of the locations, and the act of wondering through the route refreshing your loci-stored memory. It also suggests that even after you wake you’ll remember to use the system more, in your daily life. Assuming you have slowed your brain down to the more suggestible wavelengths these suggestions should be invaluable, and really will help to improve your memory within your life.

Since you will likely have nothing stored in each of your loci as you start the training, we will use the audio file to also help to learn the essential components of another memorisation technique known as The Peg System. Briefly, this is a system for turning numbers into words so that they can more easily be remembered. We’ll talk more about this next week. For now just concentrate on the other purpose, the fact that having these objects there allows us to name them, so Noah being at location 2 means you can talk about “Noah’s location” and use this as a key to find all the things there. If you want to store some key, you can store it “With the goo” rather than “at the 9th place in the loci map”. Having these names helps build a short-cut to that location in your mind.

Memory – Encoding – The Peg System

by pre., Friday, March 14th, 2008.

If we ask you to remember the phone number 0800362633, you will likely have difficulty. However, if we ask you to remember the phone number 0800-ENCODE, you will find that task much easier, even though if you examine the keys on your phone you’ll see this is the very same number.

This is because human brains can ‘chunk’ information, remembering “ENCODE” is just one memory chunk, whereas remembering 362633 is six! Remembering “ENCODE” is six times easier than remembering the number’s digits.

This proves that you can remember numbers more easily if you encode them differently, turn them into words.

However, the keys as laid out on a phone keypad aren’t terribly useful for remembering arbitrary numbers. Often it will be difficult to find a word to associate with a given number. You may have a word of all consonants or other impossible combinations of letters. So instead of using the phone keypad, we associate each digit with a consonant, and allow arbitrary vowels to be added between them.

List Of Digits

Each digit will be associated with a letter, and to help you remember the associations you will imagine a rich semantic image, full of associations, for each digit too.

Zero – Z – Oz, the wizard

Picking Z for the number zero is an obvious choice, the number zero begins with that letter. We chose the Wizard Of Oz as an image to invoke this association because Oz actually begins with what looks like a 0.

One – L – eel

The number one is associated with the letter L, because the written digit “1″ looks similar to the letter “l” and the aim is to be able to read the numbers as letters just as quickly and easily as we read them as digits. We pick the image of a wriggling Eel because the world eel contains only vowels with the desired letter, so it’s hard to get confused and read the wrong number. Plus, if you straighten out an eel, you can form the digit 1 with it.

Two – N – Noah of Ark

We pick Noah, of ark fame, to represent the number N which we associate with the number two. N looks a bit like a 2 tipped on it’s side, and Noah is an evocative image who’s name contains no other letters used in our peg system.

Three – M – Moo, cow

The third digit is associated with the letter “M”, again because if tipped onto it’s side it resembles that digit. The word “Moo” contains nothing but this letter and vowels, so we imagine a cow making it’s characteristic noise.

Four – R – Ra, the sun-god

The letter “R” is the last letter of the word “Four”, and thus we chose it for that digit in our peg system. The name of Egyptian Sun God “Ra” contains nothing but this letter and a vowel, so we chose that name to associate with the number four to remind us of that number.

Five – V – Eve

The letter V is the Roman numeral for Five, and is also the third letter of the word. It is thus a sensible choice to associate with that number. Eve, dressed in her fig-leaf, is a suitable image for remembering the association because, again, we need add only vowels to produce her name.

Six – B – Baa, sheep

The digit 6, if you straighten out it’s slumped back, looks much like the letter “b”. Thus we add a couple of vowels to the letter to get the word “Baa”, associating a noisy sheep with the digit.

Seven – T – Cup of tea

If you rush writing the letter T, it can end up looking like the digit 7. So we associate 7 and T together. As a vivid image to remember this association we pick a cup of tea, again only adding vowels to the letter to avoid confusion, and of course noting the exact resemblance of the phonemes.

Eight – S – Shoe

An “S” turns to an 8 just by allowing the ends to grow towards each other, so we pick the consonant “s” to associate with the number eight and use a Shoe as an image to build further semantic associations.

Nine – G – Goo

Finally, a “9″ looks a lot like the letter “g”, so we associate those two glyphs together. Adding only vowels as is our convention we can enrich these associations by imagining that the letter is impressed on a pool of green slimy goo.


The number 345789 will be read as mrvtsg, and then expanded by adding vowels to be MR VeT SaG. We will use visualisation techniques to imagine a veterinary surgeon sagging as he ages: MR VeT SaG. This should usually be enough for us to recreate the number later by going backwards, writing a number for each consonant in the string.


Unfortunately, in learning a skill like this there is no real substitute for practice. We can help to put the associations in your head with our guided meditiaons, we can encourage you to want to practice during those files too, make the suggestions which encourage you to do so. But until you have coded and decoded a few hundred numbers you will simply not learn to use the Peg System as a new sense, to be able to read numbers as words as easily as you can read these words as words. Doing this should be the aim.

This weeks mp3

We use The Loci System to program your brain to associate each digit with the consonant as detailed above. You will associate each digit with a letter by placing things that begin with that letter in the corresponding loci in your route.


The background music this month was written by Chemica Solutions especially for the Transcendence Institute, we supply it alongside our guided meditation to encourage you to record your own voice-overs if you desire:

Memory – Encoding – Remembering Names

by pre., Friday, March 21st, 2008.

People often find remembering names difficult. The problem is essentially that there’s no method in naming. Names are arbitrary labels, and you can’t figure out someone’s name if you miss it. There’s no reason for most names, they’re initially completely unconnected in your mind so you really have to put some effort in to reinforcing the connection between that label and the person it refers to. In addition, there’s often little time to do so in a social setting. Before you’ve really had a chance to let the name properly sink in there’s a dozen other things to concentrate on, and you’re having to hold up your end of a conversation.

So the key, when you meet someone new, is mostly just to spend a few seconds reinforcing that connection, that association. Any way you can. Every way you can.

Firstly: check you have it right. The kinds of places where you meet new people tend to be noisy, active, difficult places to hear properly. And the less clearly you hear a name, the less it’ll sink into your memory. Even if you think you’ve heard it, there’ll be more doubt and therefore more probability of forgetting that name the less clear it is. If you think they said “Richard” because your ears heard “Richpard” you’ll surely be right. But your subconscious brain will remember the doubt, even if you don’t notice it consciously. Also, of course, if you have the wrong name in the first place then no number of mnemonic tricks or hypnotic suggestions are going to help. So give the name some real concentration. Use it back if possible. Make sure you have it right.

If name itself is a familiar one, if you already know someone with that name personally or through their fame, you’re off to a head start. The name’s already a big semantic symbol in your head. There’s all kinds of things that’ll bring it to mind. Imagine this new person doing an impression of the famous person or friend you already know with that name. Imagine them playing leapfrog together if you need to. Something provocative and evocative will work best to get that name into your brain.

If it’s a less familiar name though, maybe a foreign name you’ve never come across before, you won’t be able to do that. On the other hand, you will have a perfect excuse to ask how the name is spelled. Imagine it written across their face as they spell it. Check you have the pronunciation right. Remember that the more you focus on the name itself the more likely it is you’ll remember it. Talk about the name for a while. Ask where it came from, what it means, who they’re named after.

Try using other ways to get the name into your brain. We’ve already done the normal one, just hearing it, and we’ve added more by visualising a connection or asking for a story about the name, there are others too though. Write the name with an imaginary pen, type it on an imaginary keyboard. Tap it out in Morse code with your foot if you can. The longer you can focus your attention on this name, the more you associate it with the person in front of you, the better it’ll be encoded in your mind and so the better your recall will be.

So that’s the initial few seconds after you’ve been given the name sorted out; but from the moment your conversation moves elsewhere the impression in your brain will start to fade. What it needs, especially in the next few minutes and hours, is constant reinforcement. Use the name during your conversation, and especially as you say goodbye at the end.

Probably the most powerful thing you can do though is use the base encoding systems you’ve already learned to remember new names. Put the people you meet during a conference or wedding or work meeting or party or whatever into a loci memory map, especially if it’s someone you particularly liked, or are likely to meet again, or need to impress. Whenever you get a spare moment, review your name-loki-map mentally in your imagination. This is what will help you remember the name not just later that night, but when you next meet them again two months later.

Start with a ten-loci system and put each person you meet into the next slot. Then when you run out of slots, start doubling up. Eventually you may spend entire bus-journeys or those moments before you sleep reviewing the names of the last hundred people you met. And the more you do it, the longer you’ll remember those names for.

This is what we mean when we say that the Transcendence Skills feed back into each other. As you get better at one skill, it’s use is transferable into improving the next. As each skill improves, the ones that it supports improve automatically.

Not only that, but the skills you learn for remembering names are useful in remembering your life. These same tips (essentially; paying attention, focusing, reinforcing association, reviewing often) can be used to remember that joyous moment when you got that contract, that wonderful evening watching the stars, a surprising lingering smile. The same techniques work, and as you learn how to decide what you remember, you can focus only on the good, and in the process make yourself happier, more secure, confident.

Will this system work? Judge for yourself. But don’t complain it doesn’t work unless you have at least two people in each of those ten slots. Because until you’ve tried it on at least 20 people, you haven’t really tried it at all.

Memory – Encoding – Self-prompting

by pre., Friday, March 28th, 2008.

The Peg System and Loci System work well, but can be be a bit abstract. It’s not often we need to memorise a phone number or even a list of topics for a speech. People don’t often say “Can you remember this list of words for me” and quite often say “can you remind me to call my mum”

So what technique can you use to remind yourself to do things later? Simple and useful techniques include writing on the back of your hand, tying knots in your hanky, programming your phone to beep at a given hour. All these techniques are good and helpful, and no sane person would do away with them entirely, but we’re not only interested in remembering things, we’re also interested in getting better at remembering things. Teaching your brain to improve. Ideally we want a system we can use which you can practice and therefore improve at each time you do so.

Think for a moment about how your brain works. It’s an associative machine. That’s why the Loci system works: imagining the location reminds you of the things you’ve left in that location. That’s why the peg system works: remembering the encoded word you’ve invented reminds you of the number because you have trained your brain to associate each digit with a letter.

So how can we use association to help us remember to buy some milk on the way home from work?

Visualising Environmental Cues

You need to set up an association in your mind. In the example of remembering to buy milk on the way home from work, you can close your eyes for a few seconds and visualise the route you take home. When you get to the point where you’d have to turn towards the shop instead of towards your house, stop. In your mind, look around, and imagine you see a giant carton of milk falling down from the sky. See yourself ducking to avoid being hit by the six foot high carton as it sloshes noisily on hitting the ground. Imagine it as vividly as you can, so that when you’re actually going home from work, your associative brain will remember seeing that image earlier in the day and pop it back into your consciousness.

The more detail you can imagine seeing when you visualise the environment you want to be reminded to do something, the more vivid, bizarre and unusual you can make the imagined event, and the more times you review the scenario in your head beforehand, the more chance there is you’ll be reminded as desired when you’re actually in that environment.

Another example: To remind yourself to listen to one of our guided meditation files at bedtime, take a moment now to visualise your bed. See it in as much detail as you can, take a second to look around the bedroom, imagine the things you’ll see as you prepare to snooze. Then imagine that, as you lift the covers to climb into the bed, a big spring hidden in the bed is released, and *boing* (imagine the noise, feel the vibrations of the spring), out pops a big pocket-watch. It wobbles backwards and forwards in front of your face for a while, completely stopping you from getting into the bed. You can’t get into the bed until you’ve dealt with the self-hypnosis that the sprung pocket-watch represents.

Replay that in your head a few times. Imagine how you’d react, how you’d feel if it really happened. Try to imagine it as if you’re remembering it, as if it’s happened before. As if it happens every time.

With luck, you’ll now be reminded each evening to listen to one of our audio files as you drift off to sleep. Perhaps the Loci/Peg system files to improve your memory in other ways! Better yet, you have learned a valuable technique on how to encode prompts into your own mind, to better use your memory.

Guided Meditation File 2 – Memory – Encoding
Backing Music “Encoding” By Chemica Solutions
Download Meditation Download Backing Music Visit Artist's Site Read Articles

Memory – Storage – Your Memory

by pre., Friday, December 5th, 2008.

Last loop around the spiral we dived right into systems, tricks and mnemonics, ways to achieve almost immediate gain in pushing information into your memory such that you can recall it. We hope by now you have a rich loci-map full of details, strange events and objects, which you’re wondering through often to remind you of, well, anything and everything. You should have letters associated with each digit and, at least a few times, you’ll have remembered a number (perhaps a bank PIN?) using that mnemonic system. If not, why not? Are you trying? Are you listening to the meditations? Meditating along?

This loop around we’re aiming for more understanding of how your memory works, which should help you to understand why the tricks in the last lap around the spiral work, and indeed how the other techniques you’ll be learning this time work.

How does your memory work?

We don’t know.

Well, that’s not quite true. We have some pretty good clues, some detailed proposals. We understand at least some of the components of the memory system. The models presented here are roughly right, even though many of the details are still not understood.


You likely already know that your brain contains a few neurons. Well, more than a few. Around a hundred billion of ’em in fact. That’s 100,000,000,000. Nearly Fifty a second for your entire life (not to mention the new ones you’re growing each day). They’re all shaped a little like trees. Each one of those has a few (well, okay, mostly over 1,000) dendrites, like the leaves of the tree and an axon, like the trunk which branches at the end to a lot of root-like Axon Terminals too. So inside your brain there are around a hundred trillion (100,000,000,000,000) places where a dendrite (the neuron’s ‘leaves’) and an axon terminal (the neuron’s ‘roots’) meet. If you wanted to count ’em all you’d have to count fifty thousand connections for every second of your life or else you’d end up dead before you finished.

The physiology of these connections, called synapses, is fairly well understood, in more detail than we can possibly go into here. A wave of concentrated ions travels from the tips of the dendrite/leaves down the axon/trunk and into the terminals/roots. This causes tiny molecules known as neurotransmitters to be released at the end of that axon terminal. These drift the unimaginably small distance between there and the next neuron’s dendrite in almost no time at all and there they are attracted to proteins in the wall of a dendrite/leaf in the next neural cell. These proteins in the cell wall are called receptors and when they hit that receptor they encourage yet another wave of concentrated ions to travel along the axon of the next neuron.

Neurons are built so that it takes a certain amount of it’s receptors collecting neurotransmitters before that wave of ion concentration moves down the axon to the next neuron. And this amount, the amount required so that one neuron will pass on a signal to the others it’s wired to, can change.

There are many systems which contribute to this process. Most notably, when a neuron fires lots, it changes so that it will be more easily fired in future. This happens in a few different ways, which together are called long term potentiation, and that allows a neuron to change radically. As this process happens more often (or more extremely), the change in the neuron grows more radically and irrevocably.

This means that the more a connection is used, the lower that threshold will be, the more easily it’ll pass on that signal. Long Term Potentiation, therefore, is the key to how memory works, how learning works. It works by changing the likelihood that one neuron will respond to signals from the thousands of neurons connected to it.


Wiring up these axons between neurons randomly, even allowing that they can grow connections together and form useful bonds, wouldn’t really be terribly useful. Random neurons, even neurons which adapt their synapse connection strengths, do not make a memory system. Thanks to ingenious experimentation science has also developed a broader understanding of how networks of learning neurons are organized to produce the whole memory system.

Information from the senses is collated, analysed, processed and then stored temporarily in a sensory memory. When we say temporarily, we mean less than half a second. After that the next load of data from the senses is coming in and needs the room.

The information representing things which we are paying attention to in sensory memory can be moved, presumably along thousands and thousands of neuron’s axons, to short term memory. Short term memory has axon pathways which loop back into itself, so that if you attend to an item in short term memory you can keep it there indefinitely, but as soon as your attention fades the memory will begin to degrade too. Short term memory is often assumed to work as though you are repeating something over and over to yourself. Like a phone number, which is about as much as people can fit into their short term memories. If you keep repeating it you may be able to keep it in memory, but if you pay attention to something else it quickly fades.

When we talked about the peg system during the last circuit of the spiral you learned that it’s easier to remember things which you can chunk, so it’s easier to remember 0800-ENCODE than the numerical phone number which that represents. This is because the short term memory focuses on chunks like this. It holds a few of them in a working scratch-pad, for quick and easy access.

From short term memory some information can be carried deeper into the memory system, presumably along yet more thousands of axons, and into the dendrites of an even more wide-spread and numerous system of neurons known as the “Long Term Memory”. Unlike the previously described types of memory, long term memory can last for a hundred years or more, a whole lifetime.

On the level of an individual neuron, this could be achieved by wiring the neuron’s own axons and dendrites together. When it fires once, it’s output feeds back into it’s own input so it fires again, driving that process on and on. The event of it firing once makes it fire more often, increasing the amount of long term potentiation from even a single excitation. Indeed we do find neurons with this structure in the cortex.

Factors which help to determine what information passes from short term memory into long term memory include emotional arousal, attention, concentration, importance, repetition and relevance. All these things help to push the neurons involved over their limit and into that changed state where long term potentiation changes that neuron permanently, pushing the information deep into long-term storage.


We have glossed over many, many details in this extremely brief description of your memory system. The best understanding science has to offer is still incomplete, but the systems we have described are better understood than this cursory glance would indicate. The worlds best understanding of these processes explain many features of human memory, and yet also miss enormous amounts of the detail. Our brief description performs even worse. If you read every page we have linked to here, and all the pages that they link to, you’ll begin to have a rough grasp of the rough grasp that our current science has to offer. If you listen to a university level course on these matters you’ll still not grasp all that the real experts do. And even they have gaps in their knowledge.

Yet this understanding is still deep enough that you can begin to use it to help you use your mind more skilfully, to learn to use your memory more efficiently.

Next week we’ll talk about how a long term memory consolidates, and what you can do to help it to do so.

Memory – Storage – Refreshing

by pre., Friday, December 12th, 2008.

Last week we talked a little about the electrochemical processes which can cause an individual neuron to change it’s structure, and how this change is the function from which our memory systems are built.

Spacing Effect

Experiments on human memory recall show what’s known as the spacing effect. That is, human beings remember things for longer if they are repeated in a particular pattern. The pattern isn’t just “Lots of times”, but “lots of times with a particular pattern of spacing between those times”. You can’t learn a fact for your whole life by reading it over and over for a few minutes. This is known as cramming and while it may yet you through tomorrow’s test, it won’t help you remember something for life. For that, you need to read it a few times today, then again next week, then again a month after that. And maybe again six months later. It’s this pattern of gradually increasing spacing between repetitions which Piotr Wozniak has dedicated his life to studing.

Wired Magazine carried a report on him and his work back in April 2008. He has not only built a good model of how this works inside the brain, he’s also developed a computer program to help calculate exactly when the optimum time for the next repetition is.

Essentially this program is a cue-card system. You give it a list of the things you want to remember, and it tests you regularly. Each time you’re tested you tell the system if you were able to recall the answer before being presented with it and the program uses that information to calculate the precise rates of remembering and forgetting your brain experiences for this given fact. From this is calculates when the optimum time for retesting is. It turns out, if you want to remember a fact you need to be tested on it just before you forget it. The software determines when that likely will be, tunes itself for your particular brain, and prompts you at precicely that time.

Supermemo itself, Wozniak’s software, is only available for Windows, and is not free software, however Mnemosyne should work on most operation systems, has the full source-code freely available and redistributable, and is free of charge.

You should certainly be using a system like this if you’re trying to learn a new topic, a new language or are studying a subject. There is no shame in using technology to improve your recall and push you along the path to transcendence.


You now see another reason why the Loci system works, while using extreme and interesting visual imagery helps to initiate Long Term Potentiation (LTP), this is not enough to keep a memory embedded in your mind forever. LTP also decays. You must also refresh those chemical changes often enough to keep them active. By imagining yourself wondering around your Loci map often you refresh your memories, preventing their decay, increasing their stability.


While Supermemo and the like are incredibly useful tools for learning facts, detailed knowledge and new languages etc, they are not too useful for helping you to remember the day to day activities in your life. For this, you need repetition without consciously knowing what things will make good cue cards or will be important months from now.

This month’s meditation isn’t designed to be listened to intensively, every night for weeks on end. It’s designed to be listened to occasionally, perhaps once a week to once a month. It will encourage you to refresh your memories of the things which have happened to you since the last time you used this particular meditation. To refresh the details and events of those memories to ensure that rather than drifting away you reinforce the LTP processes in your neurons and keep your memories fresh and vivid.

Because more than one repetition is needed to keep your memory refreshed, we’ll also encourage you to remember the memories you refreshed last time for a few minutes too. And, indeed, to remember the things which happened during the previous interval too.

Memory – Storage – False Memories

by pre., Friday, December 19th, 2008.

We’ve talked about how your brain changes, the way in which it learns. Forming new memories by selectively strengthening the connections between neurons in your brain using a process called Long Term Potentiation (LTP). Last week we noted that spaced repetition of a memory helps to fix it permanently into place.

This works because memory is constructive, when you remember what your mother looks like you don’t do so in the same way that a video camera or a computer does so: pixel by pixel. Instead connections between more abstract concepts are forged via LTP and then re-traced, excited together in a pattern because they have done so often before. Arrangement of features, expressions, lines and form are literally re-experienced, putting together and re-building the ‘picture’ from past experience. Even the emotions previously attached to that face will be recalled along with a more visual ‘picture’. As each of those neural pathways gets excited once more, the process of potentiation is stepped up once more. The connections are strengthened and so the memory is too.

Which means you know how to keep a memory in storage: Keep accessing that memory, recalling it and re-experiencing the event, at stepped intervals to strengthen the connections and encourage LTP. Recall it vividly and powerfully to activate the pathways strongly. Remember each detail, every minute scrap of information. This month’s meditation guides you through this.

False memory

This system works well, but is far from infallible. Connections which were initially weak may fail to be reactivated at recall and so fade. Connections which weren’t initially present can be activated accidentally by recall and so become melded up with the memory proper. This latter phenomenon produces “False Memories” and now that you understand the process of memory better you should be able to make some guesses at how false memories are likely to occur: Patterns that are normally triggered by similar events are more easily welded into a memory. For instance, last time you were at the park, was there a dog catching a ball? Are you sure? Was it a Labrador? Perhaps you just missed it?

Reading those words will have likely made you think of the last time you were in the park, and also to think about dogs catching balls. Whether or not there actually was one there, connections between these concepts will have been cascading down your neural pathways. You’re probably more likely to think there was a dog there just from the act of being questioned about it.

Repeating associations at spaced intervals makes it more likely to be recalled falsely. If a police-officer asked you repeatedly every few days about “that dog you saw at the park that time, the Labrador, was it catching something?” he’d be slowly increasing the chances that a false memory will be recalled.

Indeed, experiments show that implanting false memories into people is quite easy. The Lost in the mall technique works well for events which are likely, easy to imagine. Techniques for implanting false memories aren’t even participially hard: In conversation, imply the false memory is true to strengthen the connection between the events, all the things in it, and the suggestion. Don’t give conversational space for it to be questioned, just move right on to discussing something else, tangentially related. Repeat a few times, at the right spacing, then ask if it happened. People can quite often be convinced they experienced things which never happened like seeing Bugs Bunny at Disneyland.

Trusting Your Memory

Knowing this, how much can you trust your own memory?

It’s tempting to think that now you can’t trust your memory as much as you could when you first realized these facts. However, in fact your memory is no less trustworthy now than it was last week, if you can remember that far back. Your appreciation of your memory’s fallibility has increased, but how has the actual effectiveness of your memory storage been affected? The actual effectiveness should have been increased

You know what signs to look for when trying to decide how trustworthy your memory is. You may be able to spot and head off accidentally implanted false memories. You know that for a memory to be accurate it needs to have been rehearsed a few times without guidance or external influence, that repeated questioning from others can use unintentionally loaded language which changes the reliability of your memories. You know to admit your memory is flawed.

Things which make planting of false memories less easy include learning to pay better attention in the first place, expanding you concentration and observational powers. In general, getting feedback from all the other skills in our spiral.

Memory – Storage – Manipulating Memories

by pre., Friday, December 26th, 2008.

Last week we talked about false memories, explaining how experiments show they are most easily created and how this matches with what we know of neurology and the way our brains form connections.

The last point we want to make about memory storage this lap around the spiral is to point out a practical application implied by the existence of false memories and our understanding of how they’re implanted and the neurological system underlying the mechanism: You can manipulate your memories.

Is that wise?

Our own self-experimentation and investigation indicate that in fact deliberately and consciously changing a factual memory is difficult. Trying to reprogram your own mind to think you experienced something you didn’t, or saw or heard something you didn’t, or changing the position you came in some competition, is probably unwise and, in our introspective tests at least, impossibly difficult. The problem is that while you’re trying to associate in the false memory you also associate in the fact of trying to change that memory. You remember trying to change it, and thus what you tried to change it from. You end up reinforcing the truth (or at least your original interpretation) as much as you add the extra association for the false memory. You inevitably think of both during recall.

However even if it were possible to reprogram your factual memory at will, we couldn’t recommend even attempting it for anything other than trivial matters to explore the limits of possibility. A keen and understanding mind is based on good factual recall of the truth, of actual events, and building a house of cards based on deliberate lies will not help you genuinely transcend the personality you randomly acquired anyway. It can only help build delusion.

Changing the emotional content of a memory

It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to factually convince yourself that you didn’t do that utterly embarrassing thing which you have regretted your entire life, or suffer that tragedy which tainted your personality from then on out, or get rejected in that cruel way by that otherwise amazing, towering human being. However it seems that your emotional response to these events is more easily manipulated.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioners claim good success treading patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by using essentially these false-memory techniques. They have the patient vividly recall the incident, not trying to change the facts, but to watch it as though it was a movie on a screen, a long way away, perhaps with a comedic sound-track playing at the time. In other words to downplay the emotional significance of the events. Essentially to use the same mind patters that you use when you walk out of a movie-theatre, ending your suspension of disbelief.

The emotional system, it seems, it easier to fool than the more factual Declarative Memory system.

Many scientists have argued that Clinical Depression can be exasperated, even caused, by focussing the attention on sad or unlucky events rather than on happy occasions when things went so very right. Neuro-Linguistic-Programmers have claimed good success treating patients with depression though teaching their clients to reduce or change the emotional content of their memories, the events they focus on. Teaching them to re-visualise those memories with different contexts, as a movie or as a small event a long way away, or played with a clown’s slurring trombone comedy soundtrack. This, it seems, changes their emotional response to the memories. They still remember consciously doing it, they remember how the memory used to hurt them, but the actual emotional pain is reduced. They remember reducing it.

In this sense a learned emotional response is different to a declarative, factual memory of an event. While remembering that you changed the facts of an event in your memory suggests to you that you the change is untrustworthy, remembering that you changed your emotional response to a memory intrinsically makes the suggestion that your emotional response should therefore now be improved.

This makes it difficult, even ignoring how unwise it would be, to try and change the factual content of your memory. It also means it’s easier, as well as more useful and helpful, to change the emotional significance of memories. Doing so will help improve your mood, happiness, help you to build an optimistic view on life.


The “Memory/Storage” meditation introduced below is designed to help you to spend a few minutes vividly reviewing the most important events of the last few days. To relive them in as much detail as you can, strengthening the neural pathways which keep that memory vibrant as time goes on. You should do this often, with happy joyous memories you want to treasure forever. However, if you find you have a memory which you can’t help lingering on, which is making you sad or mad or angry or hateful it may be worth not ignoring that memory since it has such a strong hold on your mind but instead changing it’s emotional context. Go through our meditation and keep in mind as you visualize the events to see them a long way away, or on a movie-screen, or with a laugh-track. Change the focus of the memory away from your embarrassment or shame or anger or sadness by replaying them without the emotional significance they once had.

This month’s meditation

This month we present a meditation designed to improve the life of your memories, to keep them vibrant and vivid for longer, to reinforce the neural pathways which help a memory stay in your mind for longer.

You’ll be asked to recall significant events from the last few days, or however long it’s been since you last listened to this meditation. You’ll be asked to visualize those events strongly, vividly, in as much detail as you can and reminded how this works, how it’s fusing the bonds between neurons, increasing Long Term Potentiation and supplying you with suggestions and positive reinforcement to help you hold on to those memories for ever.

Guided Meditation File 11 – Memory – Memory Storage
Backing Music “Wellenreiter” By Klangwuerfel
Download Meditation Download Backing Music Visit Artist's Site Read Articles

Memory – Recall – Improving Recall

by pre., Friday, August 7th, 2009.

The Transcendence Institute has already talked a great deal about memory. In particular, we have discussed ways to better encode the things you want to remember in order to aid in getting them into memory in the first place, and then in the second lap we talked about how to keep those things in your memory for as long as possible, essentially by refreshing those memories as often, emotionally, and vividly as possible.

This lap around we’re considering memory recall. You’ll use the mind-manipulating skills you have learned in previous months to understand how memory recall works, how to aid it, and how to practice it’s improvement.

How Recollection Works

We have noted that human memory doesn’t work like computer memory. You don’t just demand the contents of your memory from a certain block of your brain and have it returned to your mind intact. Instead, human memory is an associative memory. You recall things not by giving the address of that thing to a memory postmaster and having him fetch what lives there, but instead by association. By being reminded of a thing through those ideas you have associated it with, or by it’s features, it’s colour, shape, texture.

This explains a salient point about memory recall: that recognition is easier than recollection. That fact is why people sigh with relief when they find out some test they must take is a multiple choice test. Just hearing an answer reminds you what the answer is. Why you can tell that you know someone, yet still not know their name. Why you can struggle for a long time looking for an answer until someone tells you and you exclaim “I knew it“, despite the evidence that you couldn’t bring it to mind.

It’s clear then, that having something stored in your memory and being able to retrieve it are different things. Doing all the things we mentioned in the first two laps around the spiral will help recall. Ensuring the thing to be remembered is well encoded, that it’s vivid and striking and emotionally evocative, will help bring things to mind by ensuring your memory is stored properly in the first place. Refreshing your memories often, wondering around your Loki map regularly, taking time to vividly recall your experiences will also aid no end.

Given a memory which is already encoded, though, one which has been repeated and re-recalled as often as it has with no chance to change that retrospectively, what can you do to aid recall?

Tips on improving recall

The key, as you may have guessed, is to push as many reminders at your mind as you can. To try and get your brain-state to closely approximate the brain-state it was in at the time the memory was first formed, or at least subsequently re-formed.

You may have had the experience of not remembering your PIN if you’ve ever tried to recall it in unusual circumstances, but know that if you were stood in front of a cash-point it always slips into mind. You may have tried to recall which song is next in some album and been unable to do so yet as soon as the previous track ends you start humming the first few bars of the next before it starts whether you want to or not.

This is because once your brain configuration more closely resembles the configuration it had at the time the memory was stored it will automatically push the rest of the brain into remembering, recalling.

Stories appear to be a natural way to do this. It’s why the question “Where did you last have it?” is useful when searching for some item now lost. If you can describe the story leading to an items loss, the story will often bring to mind the things involved in that story, pushing your neural networks closer to that recall epiphany.

If suffering from a tip-of-the tongue blockage when searching for a word or a name it can even pay to simply roll through the alphabet: “Does it begin with an A? How about a B?” turning this name-guessing recall problem into a multiple-choice recognition problem.

It’s not particularly helpful to struggle to remember. Your memories do not respond well to pressure, or to demands. Instead, just think about the related things which you do remember. Try and let your mind wonder, while staying broadly on-topic, searching for the key, the one jot of information which will remind you of the sought data.

In this way you’ll learn to enjoy searching for memories since it stops being a difficult struggle and starts being a walk in the park, a stroll through memory lane.

Next week we’ll consider the opposite of recall: forgetting. Then, since this lap is dedicated to dream-work, we’ll discuss improving recollection of dreams. Finally, at the end of the month, we’ll present a guided lucid-dream designed to help you improve both your dream-recall, and your ability to mine the depths of the memories you have stored.

Memory – Recall – Forgetting

by pre., Friday, August 14th, 2009.

Science has progressed to such an extent that it understands, in broad-brush outline, how memories are stored. However, how memories are lost is, if not quite a mystery, much less well modeled and mapped than the process of long term potentiation which enables memory.

While the process of myelination is perhaps to some small degree reversible, it seems that this process is overwhelmed by the myelination of other memory-traces. Memories are lost, it seems, through interference rather than decay. Evidence to support this comes from the fact that recognition is easier than recollection, and that being in a similar situation aids recall.

A forgotten memory, especially one once remembered well, is more likely hard to retrieve than gone. The ‘problem’ with forgetting isn’t that you fail to be reminded, it’s that the particular event you’re looking for is drowned out by the flood of other memories of which you’re also reminded, all clamouring for your attention.

Forgetting is a failure to select the right one of competing memories more than it is a failure to store or retrieve.

This is why the advice given last week on how to improve recall (essentially, think of as many ancillary and related things as possible, put yourself into as similar a mindset as you can) works: it increases the strength of the desired memory. Helps it to stand out against the crowd of other memory traces.

Deliberately Forgetting

If you’ve thought about something often enough that you’ve decided you’d like to forget it, it’s probably going to be a difficult job to do so. That ‘something’ has likely been pondered by you many times, recalled and refreshed so often that the connections between the neurons making it up will be heavily potentiated, sheathed in myelin and difficult to change. The whole reason you’re likely to want to forget something is because you keep being reminded of it already. This is a strong signal and it’s going to take a long time to decay.

Understanding forgetting more as the generation of competing memories rather than the decay of old ones, however, gives us a better perspective on the process by which time heals, and ways to speed it along it’s way.

A common reason why an especially troubling memory is so persistent is that recalling it brings back vivid, often unpleasant emotions. As we explained during lap one, an event which is highly emotionally charged causes the long term potentiation’s efficiency to increase. The fact of the strong emotion brought about by the recall makes the refreshing effect stronger. Each time you are reminded of the event, you not only provoke the unpleasant or unhelpful emotion, the fact you are doing so makes you more likely to be reminded of the event again later.

On the whole it’s going to be easier not to forget it but instead to just change the emotional significance of a memory. Firstly, because nobody cares about being constantly reminded of that funny thing, but also because a reduced emotional response reduces the chances of further inadvertent recall later. Opening up competing memory-traces to other less emotionally negative things is in fact the key to stop being troubled by memories.

Changing The Emotional Significance Of A Memory

The key to changing the emotional significance of a memory isn’t to try to forget. The act of trying to forget will just make you remember more. Instead the key is to deliberately remember, but to also distort that memory in a way which reduces the emotional impact.

NLP practitioners suggest various ways to do this. Recall the event as though you are watching it on TV rather than through your own eyes. Recall it in fast-motion, or made small and distant, or with a comedy sound-track. By strengthening the pathways activating less negative emotions you will reduce the flow of emotion toward those negative sources.

So here’s the method: Sit down, relax, take the time to drop down into a suggestible state. Then visualize the events you’re trying to forget. You want to distort what you see though. See it as though it’s not happening to you, but projected on a screen at the other end of a large hallway, in comedy fast-motion, with a clownish trombone sound-track. Watch it clearly, as vividly as you can given all those distortions.

This should reduce the emotional significance of the event. Perform this meditation several times, over several days, and soon you’ll find the meditation itself, and the reminders of the event you find in daily life, provoke less and less of a reaction from your emotional systems. Eventually, the event should become so trivial and mundane that you’ll stop being reminded of it all the time.

Solve Outstanding Issues

However, if you still owe money or favours or expect something or feel like you need to tell someone something, that fact will keep popping up into your head. If you need to resolve the matter, you should resolve it before you try to forget.


Of course, when you find that you’re thinking about the thing which you are trying to forget without deliberate distortion, you need to divert your mind onto something else. Try and have something worthwhile handy to distract yourself with, a project you want to plan or topic you like to discuss, perhaps skill you’re trying to learn. When you find yourself thinking of the forbidden thing, turn your thoughts instead towards that handy distraction. This will have the benefit of also progressing your side project and giving you valuable practice at honing your concentration!