Brain Athlete is a free memory improvement app that is worth talking about.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Although the app gives no instructions regarding mnemonics, it does give you a convenient way to practice building speed and accuracy.
It also feeds you up to 1000 randomized words.
This potentially makes the app a good compliment to our bestselling course, How to Learn and Memorize the Vocabulary of Any Language.
But be advised that the words are delivered at random rather than in alphabetical order.
Although this has benefits for overall mental training, it does not gel with the Magnetic Memory Method principle of working in basic alphabetical order to reduce cognitive load when learning.
Brain Athlete will also feed you sequences of random numbers. I’ve not experimented with this function because, with the exception of phone numbers, I have no particular reason to memorize long strings of digits.
However, for general brain exercise, I do plan to incorporate the techniques for memorizing numbers eventually, and this app will be a great resource for toying around with that.
My favorite part of the app is the virtual deck of cards. This function allows you to choose as little as 1/4 of a deck to work with, up to 12 randomized decks.
You can set the app to show you between 1 and 4 cards at a time, and during the recall/testing stage, it shows you more than one card to choose from, making it an extra challenge for the brain because you’ve recently seen all of the cards on display, but need to pick the right one that comes next in line.
I found seeing more than one option very useful because it caused me to focus on my mnemonic journey with a force of clarity I had not done before. This is particularly important because my memory palace for cards is partly based on reality and partly based on invention.
I have a 52 location Memory Palace inside a deck of cards. It is a kind of empty white parking garage, sort of like the space Batman has inside that shipping crate when he needs to work in the city.
Call it the Batcave 2.0. 😉
In this imaginary space, one of many Memory Palace examples you can check out, I have 4 cars.
They are the first fours cars I owned in chronological order.
Each car has 13 stations. These Magnetic Stations are:
1. Driver’s side headlight
2. Passenger’s side headlight
5. Steering wheel
6. Driver’s seat
7. Passenger’s seat
8. Seat behind driver
9. Seat behind passenger
10. Speaks above back seat
11. Back windshield
13. Exhaust pipe
For more on card memorization, listen to my interview with magician Alex Stone.
As I was using the app, I realized that when I memorize a deck of cards, I am far too conceptual about these stations and don’t “see” them clearly enough.
But that’s no longer a problem:
These 5 Visualization Exercises helps make everything I memorize multi-sensory.
But when I wasn’t using a multi-sensory approach, I was not only slowed down.
Focusing on images alone disrupts recall.
It’s true that I know absolutely which location comes next, but with respect to this imaginary location, I’ve realized over the past few days of playing with the Brain Athlete app that I need to work on making my stations more visual.
Luckily, this need is served well by the principle of compounding.
In order to compound effectively, I’ve gone back and in a meditative, eyes-closed posture, really looked at the headlights of the car, including the paint of the hood as my mind travels toward the windshield and then through the glass onto the steering wheel. I notice the seat covers and the material covering the speakers by the rear window. I focus on the shape of the trunk and the rust on the exhaust pipe.
This is important because I’m also helping myself more clearly differentiate this car from the next car in line and the two cars beyond that.
Having gone through this exercise, I have found that, working in conjunction with the app, my memorization goes faster and my speed during recall picks up significantly. If you’re worried that you might not have enough Memory Palaces to reproduce my experiment, please don’t. Here’s how to find more Memory Palaces with ease.
So there you have it, dear Memorizers. I highly recommend getting yourself the Brain Athlete app and trying it for yourself as part of your Memory Palace training.
But if you, like me generally prefer to avoid technology, here are 5 memory improvement exercises that don’t require apps at all.