Memory, Learning and Enhancing

Your brain processes your experiences and all the information gathered by your senses. Most of this data is discarded, but the important perceptions, facts, and skills are stored in your memory. This enables you to think, learn, and be creative.

When we receive basic information, say a grocery list, we process the language within two areas of the brain (named after two neuroscientists): “Broca’s area” and “Wernicke’s area.

Your memory is divided into three sections—sensory, short term, and long term. Only the most important information makes it into the final section.

Making memories – Memories are formed by electrical signals making connections between nerve cells so that they form a network. The more often the network is activated, the stronger it gets, creating a long-term memory.

The cortex and hippocampus are the main areas of the brain responsible for memory, but different parts of brain store different types of memories.

It is easy to forget things, it may happen within seconds if short term memories are not retained by reviewing them several times or by linking them what you already know.

Learning Techniques

Involuntary recall Have you ever found yourself smelling something and suddenly remembering a certain time or place very strongly? This sensation is called involuntary recall, because your brain has retrieved the memory by itself, without any prompting from your conscious mind. Sounds and sights can also cause this, but smells are especially powerful, perhaps because the part of your brain that processes scent is closely linked to your memory.

Voluntary Recall –

Paying Attention – Normally, if you want to take in information, it is vital to concentrate and not allow yourself to be distracted. If you wont pay attention, the information wont enter short term memory and hence you wont learn.

Making Connections – You can improve your memory by linking new ideas to things you know already. This process slots information into your long term memory and makes you think more deeply about it. This is important form of learning and is called Association(logical method).

Knowing (and seeing) how things are connected to each other is a big help for logical learners. You can use mind maps, branching trees, diagrams, and timelines to keep track of things and see how they fit as a part of the whole picture. This is particularly helpful for science principals, literature analyses, and more. Plotting out the information can help make sense of a mess.Knowing (and seeing) how things are connected to each other is a big help for logical learners. You can use mind maps, branching trees, diagrams, and timelines to keep track of things and see how they fit as a part of the whole picture. Plotting out the information can help make sense of a mess.

Chunking – Sometimes there may be isolated facts or strings of numbers which we store in our short term memory by dividing the long sequences of data into smaller, more easily remembered ‘chunks’. Most people remember mobile numbers, account numbers, etc in this way.

Mnemonics – One trick for remembering random sequences of words is to use their initial letters to make up a sentence or mnemonics. For Example VIBGYOR (Violet,Indigo, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red) Rainbow colours

Trip Method – Trip method means remembering by visualizing (Visual method) a trip. Students are visual learners and trip method helps them touch (Physical method), feel and listen(Aural method) to what they are learning about.

Story telling (Verbal Method) – Our brains, incredibly, are able to “light up” the same areas of actual, physical experience when we are exposed to storytelling and vivid language. Stories are the perfect vehicle for this miraculous, empathetic trip because they relate someone elses’ physical experience.

For instance, Professor Keith Oatley of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto has suggested that reading stories creates a simulation of reality which “runs on the minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.”Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories. A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action.

Tips to Improve Learning Efficacy –

  • Reduce stress : Stress and depression can affect the ability to recall information and cause short-term memory loss.
  • Eat breakfast : A lot of people skip breakfast, but creativity is often optimal in the early morning and it helps to have some protein in you to “feed” your brain. Plus, a lack of protein can actually cause headaches.
  • Good night Sleep : Hitting an REM cycle not only helps you rest and reset, it may also help with high-level problem solving. Researchers at University of California, San Diego noticed that getting some rest and dreaming allowed creative thinkers to work through some of their toughest problems.
  • Take a break: Sometimes, in order to change your physical or mental perspective and lighten the invisible stress that can sometimes occur when you sit in one place too long, it helps to take a 5-15 minute break every hour during study sessions. Studies show this is more beneficial than non-stop study, as it gives your mind time to relax and absorb information.
  • Change your focus: Sometimes you just don’t have enough time to take a long break, however you can always just change subject focus. For example -Try alternating between technical and non-technical subjects.
  • Take a bath or shower: We know this one may be a bit surprising, but both activities can loosen you up, making your mind more receptive to recognizing brilliant ideas.
  • Meditation: If you’re taking a hike, don’t stop there! Go one step further and learn  meditation as a way to tap into your inner resources and strengthen your ability to focus. Just make sure to not get so carried away that you disregard safety.
  • Listen to music: Research has long shown that certain types of music can act as a “key” to open doors and recall memories. The theory is that Information learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled simply by replaying the songs in your head.
  • Motivate yourself: Why do you seek knowledge? What do hope to achieve through learning? Exploring the reasons behind why you want to learn and what motivates you can help keep distractions at-bay.
  • Set a goal: W. Clement Stone once said “Whatever the mind of man can conceive, it can achieve.” This phenomenon in goal achievement dictates that if you prepare yourself by whatever means necessary, any and all hurdles will seem surmountable. Those who have experienced this phenomenon likely understand its validity.
  • Think positive: After all, what’s the point in setting learning goals for yourself if you don’t have any faith in your own ability to learn? Unfortunately, not everyone in your life will be a well-wisher of your self-improvement and learning plans. They may intentionally or subconsciously distract you from your goal. If you have classes to attend after work, make sure that work colleagues know that you are unable to work late, for example. Diplomacy works best, if you think your boss is intentionally giving you work on the days he/she knows you have to leave. Reschedule such meetings to a later time if possible and/or necessary.
  • Every skill is learned: Bodily functions notwithstanding, every skill in life is learned. Generally speaking, you can learn something new just as easily as anyone can. It takes us all a varying amount of effort, but once you’ve set your goal, it’s likely as achievable as it is believable.
  • Learn critical thinking: Critical thinking is a skill that is not only essential to the learning process but will carry you through life. Read Wikipedia’s discourse on critical thinking as a starting point. It involves good analytical skills to aid in one’s ability to learn selectively.
  • Persist: Don’t give up the pursuit of learning in the face of intimidating tasks. Anything one human being can learn, most others can as well. Take it from Thomas Edison, who said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.

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