Moonwalking with Einstein: BrainBomb #2 (Make your brain bigger)

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This post is inspired by Moonwalking with Einstein, and is part of our “BrainBomb” series. If you are inspired by the idea in this post, download the BrainBomb desktop wallpaper: (1440 x 900) or (1920 x 1200). Here are the firstsecond and third posts in this series. If you want a video summary and workbook for this book, sign up for a free trial of Read It For Me Pro.

My Brain is Bigger Than Yours

Size does matter. If you are a cabbie in London, that is. You see, it’s pretty much a guarantee that every single cabbie in London has a larger right posterior hippocampus than you.  No, it’s not from driving on the wrong side of the road all day. It’s from using the part of their brain that is responsible for spatial navigation and visual memory. To become a cabbie in London, you need to spend between 2 - 4 years memorizing the more than 25,000 twisting and curving streets of the London area. Incredibly, only 3 out of every 10 people pass the final exam (called “The Knowledge”).

What does that have to do with me?

Unless you conclude that for some reason all people with a large right posterior hippocampus are attracted to the taxi profession, it means that we literally have the ability to change the structure of our brains. Scientists call this “plasticity”, I call it “fucking awesome” (Julien Smith and Jonathan Fields said it was ok to swear).  We are living in a world where the only thing that determines our long-term success is how well we use our brains. To realize that we have the ability to shape our brains the way we shape our waistlines is like being given the keys to the golden kingdom.

Bigger brains store more information

Surprisingly, another study looked at the brains of people who performed well at the World Memory Championships and found that they use the same parts of their brains to memorize vast amounts of information. They do things that you would think that only Rainman could pull off, like memorizing the exact order of every card in 20 decks of cards and repeating it back to you (we’ll discuss how they do it later this week).  That might be useful the next time you are at a cocktail party and want to impress the ladies, but what if you could use the same techniques to learn the basics of every business subject on the planet? And what if you could encode it into your memory so that it was there any time you needed it? That’s not only powerful, it’s also possible.

So in a world where we are more inclined to leave the memorizing to Google, there’s solid evidence that doing so could leave you without something very impressive - a bigger brain. I’m off to study my maps of London.

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