Idiopathic Issues

How the Method of Loci Can Help You Become A Veterinarian

Posted by Matthew Asciutto on June 19, 2017 at 8:13 PM
Matthew Asciutto
Matthew Asciutto is a guest blogger for VetPrep and the Secret Life of Vets (YouTube Channel).

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Let’s say for a moment that you decide to abandon this whole veterinary medicine thing and try to focus on a different career path. I mean, instead of going through vet school, save all of that money and focus on a more reasonable vocational aspiration: a great orator of Ancient Rome. Sounds perfect!

You get to wear that Downey-soft bed sheet toga (way more comfortable than those Cherokee scrubs you have on); People stand and listen to you when you speak (there is no Dr. Google equivalent in the great orator game); And there are far fewer dentals. Sign me up, right? But where would you start?

One of the first major hurtles to overcome is the ability to memorize those really long speeches. After all, we can all belt out the chorus of Sweet Caroline - even add a few trumpets in there for good measure - but those verses can be a little slippery.
 
So, you do like the Romans do and start learning the method of loci. The method of loci (also known as the memory palace) involves visualizing yourself wandering through a familiar place and mentally placing specific details you are trying to memorize in certain locations within that place.
 
M-T-Ciceromod.pngThe method of loci is also known as the memory journey, memory palace, or mind palace technique. This method is a mnemonic device adopted in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises (in the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero's De Oratore, and Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria).
 
For example, if you were memorizing a shopping list, you might picture walking through the front door of your home, which has been replaced by a bead curtain made of deep yellow and brown bananas.
 
You slide through this banana drapery, look up at your chandelier and see that it has been covered in long strands of toilet paper (those hooligans!). Bananas and toilet paper - got it. The more bizarre the image, the better you will be able to remember it. 
 
This memory aid is used often by professional memorizers (yeah, it’s a thing). In fact, here is a TED talk on the subject.
 
OK, so maybe you are dead-set on becoming a veterinarian. Maybe scouring the classifieds for great orator positions hasn’t been all that fruitful. Well, you still might be able to use this method to memorize facts about the great myriad of diseases and disorders that you are presented with in your veterinary curriculum.
 
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What if you could use this to actually remember some of those facts past the exam and, gosh, maybe even carry them with you into your career!?
How? Well, let’s try an example.
Remember, as you wander through your memory palace, take great care to really picture every detail - let the scene come to life before your mind’s eye.

Equine Motor Neuron Disease 

PICTURE THIS: There you are, walking through a field of tall grass, the seed heads rhythmically brush against your bluejeans with every step. You look up, and the distance is an old, wooden barn sitting at the top of the hill. The warping of its faded gray wood has caused it to lean and tremble ever so slightly with the wind.
 
screen_shot_2017-06-05_at_12.35.36_pm.pngAs you get closer, you notice at your feet, nestled into the tall grass, is a faded red, mud-caked Tickle Me Elmo doll. You laugh to yourself at how this single stuffed toy is all that remains of these once-pervasive cultural icons. 
 
You walk through the threshold of the barn and, to your left, immediately notice a large, heavy, iron chain hooked to the wall. Your gaze follows its heavy links as they climb up to the ceiling, across the cobwebbed support beams, over a rusty pulley, and drape solemnly into the center aisle way. Attached the end of the chain is a large, grease-laden engine block.
 
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This motor is hanging precariously above an awkward scene: a Chestnut Saddlebred horse standing precariously atop a large beach ball.
 
The horse appears depressed, standing unenthusiastically with its head and neck lowered. You can see the outline of his ribs and scapula through a vacillating sea of twitching muscles, feverishly contracting to stabilize him upon this narrow, spherical platform.
 
His legs, tucked beneath him, press into the surface of the beachball - the ball itself a larger version of the one in Toy Story: a peripheral stripe of blue upon a yellow ball; a red star painted in the center.
 
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You walk around this horse and noticed that a finger-sized strip of muscle has been ripped away from the tail base.
 
Fresh blood is still oozing from the site. At your feet, you notice dark red drops: fresh blood admixed with the grey brown dust caked on the barn floor.
 
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You follow the trail of droplets to a microscope set up on a small, wooden table in the middle of the aisle way.
 
There is a fresh piece of muscle, it’s brick red fibers a stark contrast to the pearly white microscope at it’s side. Just then you hear the desperate cries of a horse standing in a stall behind you.
 
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You whip around to see another chestnut horse standing in a stall, staring longingly out the open barn doors behind you at the expansive, open pastures.
 
You look into his vapid eyes and notice a brown, mottled streaking taking up just under half of his retina. He paws at the stall door and lets out a mournful call of solitude, longing to be released from his imprisonment within this dilapidated barn.
  
 

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Equine Motor Neuron Disease
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