[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/39167883 w=400&h=225]US Memory Championship 2012
from Moment NewYork
Mental Athletes Increase Brain Size
in 15th US Memory Championship
Nelson Dellis left Saturday’s US Memory Championship with gold medals around his neck and a trophy in his hand. He had broken new records, memorized 303 random numbers in five minutes, and recited the order of two decks of cards. The second-time champion was living proof that a 28-year old with an average memory can become the country’s greatest mental athlete.
The technique? Translating data into visual images and placing them into a “memory palace” – a place in your mind that you can walk through again later and gather the storage.
Dellis came to the competition with a new technique: he would turn a group of seven numbers into a single image. To him, the number 0093495, for example, represented an image of Olivia Newton slam-dunking a helmet while wearing spandex.
Using the same colorful imagery, Dellis and the other mental athletes memorized a 50-line poem, 99 names and faces, random words and numbers, and biographical information including zip codes and phone numbers – all under the pressure of a few minutes each.
Joshua Foer, a former memory champion and author of Moonwalking with Einstein, came to cheer on this year’s competitors, but says he no longer has the skills to win.
“It’s not like training for an event like this improves some underlying generalized memorability,” he said. “You’re not turning up some volume knob in your brain. For these events, you’re quicker, faster and can remember more, but if you step outside of these doors, Nelson or I or any of these competitors are not going to have a better memory for where we put out car keys.”
But although this type of memory can only be achieved through actively applying these techniques, extensive practice can grow one’s brain the same way that one can work out to gain muscle.
According to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness, this type of training actually causes brain growth, helping prevent Alzheimer’s later in life.
“When you’ve acquired the skills, you’re more likely to use your memory more often,” he said. “And the more often you use your memory, the stronger your hippocampus gets.”
Fotuhi refers to bad memory as a self-fulfilling prophecy. When someone assumes they have bad memory, they avoid efforts to train their brain — training that can help prevent brain shrinkage. And Tony Dottino, the founder of the annual championship, is familiar with the difficulty of recruiting people to compete.
“It’s easier for me to stand on the street and get people to come in here and stand on this stage naked before I can get them in here to compete in a memory competition,” he said. “The hardest thing I’ve had to do in fifteen years is to find mental athletes.”
Dellis began training his memory after his grandmother died from Alzheimer’s.
Whether memorizing to win a competition, better one’s test scores or as a hobby, the health benefits are undeniable.
“We should take care of our minds, that’s the bottom line,” said Dellis, with cards at his feet and a trophy in hand. “I hope you are inspired a little bit to explore your own mind.”
What is the USA Memory Championship?
The USA Memory Championship is an Olympiad for ‘thinking’ games. Set up as a sporting event for Mental Athletes, the tournament consists of memory challenging tournament-style competitive events including memorization of: 99 names and faces, a shuffled deck of cards, an unpublished poem, speed numbers, and a list of 500 words. Mental Athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze awards in individual competitions as well as for the entire event.
How and why did a memory championship start in the USA?
The USA National Memory Championship was introduced by Tony Dottino, President of Dottino Consulting Group, Inc., in 1997. While applying neuroscience into pragmatic applications in the business world, Tony was amazed that most people are unaware of the amazing potential of their own brain. As he discussed their “unlimited and amazing brain” he discovered that most were deathly afraid to talk about the subject, especially as it related to memory. Their number one concern: as you get older, you lose your memory.
Tony set out to educate people, both professionally and personally that, “Your brain is like a muscle. Exercise it! When given the proper training, it gets stronger, regardless of age!” While attending a business seminar, the speaker suggested that you do something unique to get your message across, like conduct the first competition of something. As timing would have it, Tony Buzan had been talking about a local event he conducted in an English Pub where people competed with each other to demonstrate their memory. The links and connections between the ‘two Tonys’ got going and the 1st USA Memory Championship was held. The rest, as they say, is history.
The USA Memory Championship and it’s organizing committee are dedicated to the intellectual achievement of people by providing an understanding of the unlimited abilities of the human brain. We provide a forum to compete in the most important and fundamental skill of mental ability ~ memory.