Improving medical students

Archive for November 1st, 2007

How to Create Mnemonics

Posted by medliorator on November 1, 2007

The three fundamental principles underlying the use of mnemonics are imagination, association and location. Working together, you can use these principles to generate powerful mnemonic systems.


Imagination: is what you use to create and strengthen the associations needed to create effective mnemonics. Your imagination is what you use to create mnemonics that are potent for you. The more strongly you imagine and visualize a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall. The imagery you use in your mnemonics can be as violent, vivid, or sensual as you like, as long as it helps you to remember.


Association: this is the method by which you link a thing to be remembered to a way of remembering it. You can create associations by:

  • Placing things on top of each other
  • Crashing things together
  • Merging images together
  • Wrapping them around each other
  • Rotating them around each other or having them dancing together
  • Linking them using the same color, smell, shape, or feeling

As an example, you might link the number 1 with a goldfish by visualizing a 1-shaped spear being used to spear it.


Location: gives you two things: a coherent context into which you can place information so that it hangs together, and a way of separating one mnemonic from another. By setting one mnemonic in a particular town, I can separate it from a similar mnemonic set in a city. For example, by setting one in Wimbledon and another similar mnemonic with images of Manhattan, we can separate them with no danger of confusion. You can build the flavors and atmosphere of these places into your mnemonics to strengthen the feeling of location.


The key idea is that by coding information using vivid mental images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall when you need them.


You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:

  • Use positive, pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones
  • Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images – these are easier to remember than drab ones
  • Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
  • Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions.
  • Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image
  • Use humor! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones.
  • Similarly, rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!
  • Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively

Memory Techniques – Introduction [MindTools] via Dumb Little Man

Posted in How-To, Productivity, Tools | Comments Off on How to Create Mnemonics

How to Fix a Dislocated Jaw

Posted by medliorator on November 1, 2007

it was a jaw dislocation – the jaw slips out of socket, usually after a big yawn, and the end result is you can’t close your mouth. Even though it was the first time I’d actually seen it, it was an easy diagnosis to make, since the patient was staring at me like I’d just dropped my scrub pants and peed on the bed.

I quickly leafed through an emergency textbook, out of sight from the patient (who wants to see their doctor doing that?), to confirm what I thought I knew — wrap some gauze around your thumbs, put them on the back bottom teeth, and push down hard.

Gloves on, gauze wrapped, fingers in mouth, and I started pushing.

Hmm, the textbook didn’t mention what to do when the patient screams and grabs your wrists. I thought some medicines for pain and muscle spasm were in order.

4 milligrams of versed, 100 micrograms of fentanyl, and some beads of sweat on my part later, though, she was still sitting there mouth gaping open.

Time to bring out the big guns, a conscious sedation. Usually I use etomidate, but one of its side effects can be masseter spasm, which would make reduction all but impossible. So instead I went with propofol, a med I used extensively in residency but not since for a couple of reasons including I don’t think we’re really supposed to.

Usually you give a slug of this and people immediately go out, sometimes so deeply that they stop breathing momentarily. But with her, nothing, she just continued to stare at me as alert as if we were chatting at a coffee house. IV’s working, fluids are running wide open — what is it with this girl? Another big slug, and finally her eyes start to go heavy. And then they reopen, but her eyes are distant now, and looking around the room at me, the nurse, and the respiratory tech she says in a perfect stoner voice “hey ya’ll wanna get somethin to eat after this?”

I’d never seen anyone react to propofol like that before. I stuck my thumbs in her mouth one last time and clunk back in place it went, her mouth now closed. Stepping back to admire my work, she — with all of her sedating meds on board — started to unleash a giant yawn. No, I yelled, and quickly put one hand on the top of her head and the other under her chin, pushing her mouth back shut. Fortunately it didn’t pop out again, and I wrapped her head up in a bandage for good measure.

Shut my Trap [Ten out of Ten]

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