How Dr. Aga honed his memory to stop relying on technology

It was too much humiliation. My computer, one morning, informs me that I have to call my daughter for her birthday. My own child, as if I had been able to forget that, since a happy April 6th at the end of the 20th century, I gave birth to this creature who steals my shampoo, my boots, even my sausage, sometimes! It’s tomorrow, I’m not crazy! Well if, in fact, the computer is right, the 6th is today. I’m looking for my cell phone to call my chipeuse. Nowhere to be found, and I have no idea where I put it down last night. I think: “Too bad, I’m going to use the landline”, except that, rhoo… but it’s that I don’t know it by heart, my own child’s number. Shame. I am, or rather, we have become totally dependent on machines, as if our brains have been outsourced. Fortunately, in my pile of books to be published, I see “Memory: you have the power!” (Solar-First Éditions) by Michel Cymes and the hypermnesiac mentalist Fabien Olicard. I dive into it like a cone of fries, and three hours later I go on the attack.

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I’ll never use a phone to find mine again

Of course, you too have already done this. Ask a relative to ring your smartphone which, well, is exactly 12 centimeters from you, under a pile of newspapers. The problem in this case, as in that of the keys and glasses which seem to have an autonomous life, is our so-called “working” memory. It is estimated that it lasts about twenty seconds per task. And the slightest interruption of the child type which informs us that he is hungry or mobile which notifies us that Anne Hidalgo had dinner with François Hollande (yessss!) prevents our brain from printing what we have just done. To correctly encode information, you have to be either attentive or moved (for good or bad), explain the doctors. From now on, when I get home, I put my keys very slowly on the entrance console, widening my eyes as if I wanted to photograph them (it’s for the “attention” side). And as at that time, in general, my husband arrives with his head worried about “my wife is crazy”, I yell “asshole” (for the emotional side). And I swear it works: for a week now, I haven’t been looking for my keys (but Didier, yes, he hasn’t shown himself too much lately).

I’ll remember my homie Sophie’s building code

What does it do ? Ten times that I come to dine with her? And ten times I have to look at his file on my phone. Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions for burning numbers into your memory, even if you think, like me, that 6 x 7 = 54. In the case of a long series of numbers, the trick is to group them together, our working memory being able to restore a maximum of seven items. Another good thing: the recall table, which associates numbers with images, very good for non-mathematicians. For example, now, for me, 25 is the sun, and 31 is the devil (don’t judge me, everyone makes their own grub). In the case of a door code, it is best to learn it by heart: for it to be more effective, experts advise changing places. Repeating, better, humming the info, in an unusual setting. And it works: I had a great success, on the bus, when I cheerfully intoned Sophie’s Digicode to the tune of “The Winner Takes it All” by Abba. All of line 83 must still have 56B32 in mind, lalalalala.

I will no longer want to shazam a face to find out who this person who is calling me is

I have a real problem with people’s names: I can’t remember their faces either. But with the Cymes-Olicard method, all that is over. To encode both the physique and the surname of someone, the key is to combine images with information. Example: I was introduced to a certain Daniel Petit at a party last week. First reflex, I repeated “Daniel Petit? Very happy” – I never say “delighted”, my late grandmother having explained to me that it was not chic and that it made baby Jesus cry, but if you are not a Christian, I think you have the right. Then I followed up with a positive mental association: Daniel, like Daniel Craig. I imagined the guy dressed as James Bond for two seconds. For Petit, I thought “it’s the opposite” because Daniel Petit is 1.90 meters tall. Afterwards, I moved on to encoding his face. To do this, a physical detail must be printed. I thought baldness at first, but at my age too many men are bald for that to matter, so I took his ears, pointy like an elf’s. Afterwards, I unfolded the scenario mentally: Daniel Craig on tiptoe pulling the lobes of the tall Monsieur Petit. It printed really well: three times in the night, I woke up screaming. Never again in my life will I forget James Lutin.

I’ll do my shopping without a list in my phone’s notepad

Thanks to the “mental palace”, the forgetfulness of pasta shells is over! You start by choosing your “palace”, that is to say a house or simply a room that you know well enough to visualize it immediately and in detail. It will be the same for each list, the brain doing very well the “reset” of a mental palate. Then, we file the information we will need that day in several places. For me who chose my room, it was “tomato coulis on the chair. Husband bedside table dishwashing product. 50 liter garbage bags bedside me. Porto jewelry box”, etc. If you really have a goldfish memory (who don’t have such a bad one, it seems), you can make up a story associated with that list, such as “My son spilled his spaghetti at the tomato on the chair, her dad couldn’t clean the stain with dish soap, so I put them both in a trash bag and finished the port for comfort.” Since I’ve been doing this thing, I promise you: at the Franprix, I’ve never forgotten booze again.

I will be stronger than Wikipedia to talk about the mechanisms of memory

These few things representing a thin overview of all that there is in this book, I really urge you to read it, partly because new technologies make our brains for good lazy and therefore less efficient, and a lot because it allows you to show off at a lower cost: did you know that “neuromyths” abound? For example, people all think they have a dominant memory (VAK: visual, auditory or kinesthetic), yet these three areas of our brains communicate so intimately that we have never been able to demonstrate any predominance: we remember better when the three come into play, period. The story of certain brains that would be “multitasking” doesn’t exist either, like the myth of neuronal inequality between men and women. And the idea that we just lose neurons as we age is also wrong. Barring degenerative disease, we create 1,400 a day until we are at least 80 years old. Finally, with 100 billion gray cells, our brain is still 50 times more powerful than any iPhone with its poor 2 billion transistors. Verdict: Mr. Apple: 0 – Dr. Aga (and all of you): 1!

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