What's a Mind Map?

Osmosis Team
Published on Jun 14, 2019. Updated on Sep 24, 2020.

Dr. Yifan Xiao, manager of the script writing team at Osmosis, explains how mind maps work. He also details the benefits of drawing schemas for difficult medical topics and turning them into memory palaces.

Imagine you’re trying to learn pharmacology but there’s just so many unfamiliar drug names and side effects that it all ends up as a blur! Now, this is where a mind map can come in handy!  

What is a mind map?

Mind maps are a visual aid that helps you organize information in relation to a central idea. So you start out with a central idea and branch out into multiple related sub-ideas. For example, let’s say we want to have hypertension as the main idea. We can have one branch for cause, one for symptoms, one for complications, and one for treatment. Then, each one of these sub-ideas can have their own smaller branches for the specific facts you want to learn. This creates a nice hierarchy that shows the relationship and connection between information!

Research behind the mind map

The theory behind why mind maps work so well is based on research from Nobel prize winner, Dr. Roger Sperry, who came up with the concept of “cortical skills.” These are higher level intellectual tasks performed by the left and right cerebral cortices. Some of these include processing logic, colors, lines, lists, numbers, and even imagination and daydreaming! Sperry’s research showed that the more of these cortical skills used during learning, the better the information is integrated. When you just use textbooks and notes, the brain is not very engaged, but by drawing the information out and organizing them, we are increasing the number of cortical skills we’re using.   

Draw your own mind map

In order to make the most out of mind maps, it’s best to draw your own. It’s also important to use a wide variety of colors, symbols, and images when making the map. For example, instead of writing out “hypertension,” you can draw in a blood pressure cuff! It’s recommended to use a wide variety of colors, so you can make each of the main branches a different color! Make sure your mind maps take up the whole page, in fact, it’s perfectly fine to use multiple pieces of paper. Finally, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the key concepts before you start, so you have a general sense of what the important sub-ideas are.  After that, feel free to branch out and let your creativity take over!  


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