Learning the Mind Palace Technique with Terp Startup NuroSTREAM

On Nov. 20, 2020, Terp Startup NuroSTREAM hosted a free Mind Palace workshop at Startup Shell, UMD’s student-run incubator. The workshop was designed to test their startup’s neuroscience-based study platform. NuroSTREAM is participating in the Dingman Center’s Terp Startup Fellows program pilot, which provides continued resources and funding support for selected graduates from our Terp Startup summer accelerator. The following is one student’s account of her experience in the workshop.

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by: Allison Criswell ’21

Just in time for finals season, NuroSTREAM hosted a memorization strategy “Mind Palace”at UMD. The mind palace technique originated in ancient Greece, when a poet experienced a disaster and was later able to walk himself through the scene in his mind, recalling where each person was sitting when it happened. Beyond remembering where dead people were, NuroSTREAM is bringing this to students as a study method. Students can link facts or sequences with specific locations, senses (smell, touch, etc.), and emotions in order to keep them in their mind when that big exam comes. To explain, let me use the number memorization example given in the workshop.

Co-founder Steven Jettoo ’20 instructed us all to close our eyes and imagine this: You’re floating through space and suddenly there’s a snap — you’re in your bed, rolling over after just waking up. You look to your left wall and see a poster with 11 adorable puppies on it. You hear peculiar hammering noises, so you get up and walk to the door. You see that the lock on the door has the number 7 on it. You think the hammering is coming from the bathroom, so you check there, and Pikachu is in the bathtub. He says “Pikachu!” 6 times. You go into the kitchen and find your favorite food — 2 ounces of it on the lid. You pick two other items (for me it was the toaster oven, 44, and window, 61). This story incorporates strangeness (Pikachu?), emotion (cute puppies), and senses (the sound of the hammer) to deeply stick in an individual’s mind. It is said that the mind palace technique can work for long-term memorization as well, so it’s likely participants could even walk ourselves through this scenario mentally again a few weeks from now!

Students were then broken up into groups to create their own sequences. My team used McKeldin Mall as a way to remember around 15 double digit numbers. By navigating mentally from the fountain on the mall to the second floor of the library, we were able to recite it all back pretty easily. There’s no way I would’ve remembered it all through standard methods of memorization like repetition or chunking!

One tip NuroSTREAM gave is to trust your brain as you go through your visual mnemonic. The brain is much more powerful than we give it credit for, and self-doubt can interfere with your capacity to learn. Moral of the story memory isn’t something you have or don’t have, it’s something you create. NuroSTREAM’s mission is to turn everyone into a lifelong learner through their interactive mind palace workshops.

– Photography by Tommy Piantone ’19


AllisonCriswell.jpgAllison Criswell is a third year undergraduate student at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. After working with socially conscious businesses in Ecuador this past summer through Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps, she developed a strong interest in entrepreneurship. She believes that mission-driven ventures will continue to play a uniquely valuable role in creating positive change.

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