We use memory palaces to boost our retention of material for almost every subject in medical school. The techniques are not a panacea for learning. Using memory palaces still requires hard work, creativity, and critical thinking. That said, we believe they can be powerful assets to a balanced learning strategy. We cover the medical subtopics of anatomy and pharmacology elsewhere, here and here. If you're new to mnemonics, we recommend starting with our Basics and Step Up series first.
How can I use memory techniques to study in medical school?
Our learning strategy in medical school consists of three main pieces: memory techniques, [spaced repetition], and practice questions. If you haven't already, we'd recommend watching our [Getting Started] and [Refine Your Technique] series first. We also strongly encourage you to read ["Do memory palaces hinder learning?"] It summarizes our key dos and don'ts re: using memory techniques for learning. Here are medical examples of the techniques in practice: [tetracyclines], [acute pyelonephritis], [opioid analgesics] and [the trigeminal nerve]. In [our interview for Luis Angel's podcast], we also walk through a few specific anatomy, biochem, and pharm examples.
We use the software [Anki] to take notes and to actively recall concepts in a spaced repetition-based manner.
Also see: "Do you write or draw out your mnemonics?", "What does your Anki setup look like?"
How well do memory palaces work in real-time situations?
Cathy: As we usually say, these memory techniques are not the final solution. We always recommend reviewing via spaced repetition, training with questions, or drilling with friends to help integrate real-time problem solving with mental navigation of the memory palaces, which is really just a stepping stone to making the knowledge completely yours.
This practice is what allows you to quickly name the Chinese restaurants in every single town you've lived in. The same for pizza restaurants, Italian food, trendy places... In fact, you probably have no problem mentally jumping around, and could even list the entrees you like to eat at each and describe the look/feel of the restaurants. Similar to training with practice questions or drilling with friends, you've probably had a lot of practice with quickly analyzing the restaurants by situation (time to eat, need to cater a party) and specific criteria (my date is vegetarian, my budget is $5-10, I need something light on the stomach, must be within 5 minutes drive etc.).
Lastly, in my personal experience, for things that I'd like to retrieve quickly under pressure, using a rhyming or phonetic technique for creating the image allows me to verbalize the information faster.