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Ask Slashdot: How Can I Improve My Memory For Study? 384

Posted by timothy
from the hat-hen-ham-hare-hill dept.
First time accepted submitter Sensei_knight writes "How serendipitous! Today I see Slashdot also has an article linking caffeine to long-term memory, but I digress. Recently I returned to college in my 30s, after battling a childhood sleep disorder, and I now discover staying awake might be the least of my troubles. Now that I failed a few classes I'm trying to analyze and overcome the causes of this recent disaster. Two things are obvious: First, it takes me way too long to complete tasks (as if suffering from time dilation) — tests take me approximately twice the amount of time to finish [and the amount of time it takes to study and do homework is cumulative and unsustainable]. Secondly, I just can't seem to remember a whole lot. I know sleep and memory are very closely related, perhaps that's why I have never been able to commit the times tables to memory. My research on the subject of memory has not been very fruitful, therefore I want to ask for input into which angle/direction I should look into next. As for cognitive speed, I have completely drawn a blank."
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Ask Slashdot: How Can I Improve My Memory For Study?

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  • Sleep study (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    1. Have you gotten treatment, as an *adult*, for your sleep disorder? (e.g. overnight sleep study, etc.)
    2. Do you follow all the best practices for sleep -- e.g. sleep routine, e.g.only use sleeping area for sleep, avoid caffeine, no TV in bed, etc.?

    It seems to me you need to address the sleep issue first if it's still ongoing.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:44PM (#45954421)
      I find vigorous sex at bedtime really helps me to fall asleep quickly. Unfortunately, I've been wearing a cast on my hand for the last two weeks and my quality of sleep has really suffered.
      • by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:48PM (#45954525)
        This tip is for someone asking on /. ? Seriously?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I don't think you understand why the joke is funny.

      • Re:Sleep study (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @03:02PM (#45954821)

        I find vigorous sex at bedtime really helps me to fall asleep quickly. Unfortunately, I've been wearing a cast on my hand for the last two weeks and my quality of sleep has really suffered.

        Playboy, in the 70s, suggested having your girlfriend give a BJ while your were studying, then the next day, while taking the test, just remember the experience from the night before. They actually had some data to back it up (although I doubt it was statistically valid), and it seemed to only work with someone there was an emotional connection with.

        That said, being /., the biggest problem to implement that study technique will be finding a girlfriend.

      • Dr. Richard Kimble is looking for you.
      • by rwise2112 (648849) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:11PM (#45957019)

        I find vigorous sex at bedtime really helps me to fall asleep quickly. Unfortunately, I've been wearing a cast on my hand for the last two weeks and my quality of sleep has really suffered.

        Remind me of one of David Letterman's Top Ten Lists from a long time ago:

        Surprises from a recent sex survey:

        For teenage boys, the most frequeny fantasy during sex is ..... having a partner!

  • by drwho (4190) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:39PM (#45954335) Homepage Journal

    but I forgot.

  • go to a school there is about skills not just test cramming

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:41PM (#45954371)

    First see your physician for a a checkup and make sure it's nothing like Thyroid, diabetes or something phsycial. Then see a psychologist (your doc probably can refer you) and see if they have some advice - and they may refer you to a psychiatrist for medical treatment.

    You could have a number of issues from undiagnosed dislexia or depression - depression really screws with learning and memory and being depressed doesn't ncessarilty mean you are bed ridden crying your eyes out.

    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      +5 . I was gonna say just this. It could also be something neurological. It could be psychological. It could be diet. It could be sleep patterns. It could be all sorts of things, none of which slashdot is qualified to diagnose. It's like asking for legal advice here. Stupid fucking idea. Myabe don't see a shrink first, but if the physical gets ruled out, then it's always a good idea to look towards the psychological.
  • If you can't do that, then maybe University isn't for you.

    Bottom line: not everyone is able to do what most other people can do (hence "dis-abled"), and -- speaking from experience -- must make the best of your limitations.

    • by YumoolaJohn (3478173) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:47PM (#45954505)

      Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling

      Yep. This level of memorization is indeed "schooling"; what it isn't, though, is education.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This is hogwash. Education has nothing to do with memorization. Memorization is not understanding. Two entirely different beasts.
      • It depends on which level of "education" you are talking about because it sure the hell isn't critical thinking these days!

        "A Mathematician's Lament"
        http://worrydream.com/refs/Lockhart-MathematiciansLament.pdf [worrydream.com]

        and

        "The Underground History of American Education"
        http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/ [johntaylorgatto.com]

        Education comes from the latin word "Educare" which means "To draw out that which lies within" not the "fill up with useless facts" paradigm that the current establishment loves.

        --
        I have professionally shipped

      • by skids (119237)

        Education has nothing to do with memorization.

        This is a knee-jerk over-reaction to poor educational experiences. Yes some educators throw useless memorization busy-work at students. No, memorization is not useless. Pulling things into fast-cache in wetware makes some forms of cognition possible that are not possible when pulling them off google or other reference material.

    • Memory can be incresed by, I know you want to know, both daily exercise and by travelling to different areas, towns, venues to stimulate thinking and logic.

      Trying these are basically low cost options to improvement that anyone can do.

    • I think you're being more than a little harsh here. Almost all of us have some sort of difficulty to work through when it comes to higher education. Would you have told Steven Hawking to go home?
      • by Nutria (679911)

        Would you have told Steven Hawking to go home?

        If he wanted to be an artists, mechanic, chef, carpenter, etc, etc -- trades which require abilities manifestly beyond his capacity --, then yes, I would have.

  • Nootropics (Score:5, Informative)

    by tlambert (566799) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:44PM (#45954433)

    Nootropics

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic [wikipedia.org]

    Not sure if it's the right band-aid for you. Treat the sleep disorder first.

    • Re:Nootropics (Score:5, Informative)

      by PJ6 (1151747) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:41PM (#45956591)

      Nootropics

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic [wikipedia.org]

      Not sure if it's the right band-aid for you. Treat the sleep disorder first.

      I tried Piracetam [wikipedia.org] for a while... seemed like a safe, cheap miracle drug for memory. And you know what? It does what it says on the tin.... but I stopped taking it. After a while I realized that I remembered all the words to the books I'd been reading. It was awful. I looked at them and thought, I will never read these again. Every book I'd read on it, I ended up getting rid of.

      Having your memory force-stuffed isn't all it's cracked up to be. Unless you need to reverse age-related cognitive decline, I don't recommend it.

  • Good old fashioned brain teasers can help a lot. I used to do the cross hatch logic problems published by Dell magazines. Crossword puzzles, maybe even sudoku. Thing is, your sleep disorder is probably a major factor in your memory issues - our brains commit short term memory to long term while we sleep, and any sleep disorder that disrupts that process will have an adverse impact on your memory.

    If you want to try the drug route, I use phosphodatyl choline supplements during crunch time. That's more fo
  • 1) Good nights sleep.

    2) Use smells to associate memories with. When you smell the smell, it will help you remember what you associated with it.

    3) Use story chains associations - associate all ten digits with objects, and then to remember a twenty digit number, remember a story about twenty digit's associated objects.

    4) Controversial, there are claims that caffeine and adderall (ADD medication) can aid memory. But there are side effects....

  • I guess the real question is under what conditions are you able to perform well? I think you will need to identify those conditions and focus upont working in those conditions. You may need to work with teachers to develop a schedule which you can work under.

    You just may not be able to do well under a normal classroom conditions, and you will need to address that. Good teachers will help where they can and bad teachers will be inflexible, you may need to avoid those.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I guess the real question is under what conditions are you able to perform well? I think you will need to identify those conditions and focus upon working in those conditions. You may need to work with teachers to develop a schedule which you can work under.

      This is the best answer so far, but still incomplete.
      You need to talk with the school about this.
      And you need to see some doctors, get a full workup on your weaknesses,
      then with that information, you can work out an education plan with the school.
      It might involve extra time for tests, taking notes on your laptop, extra help with writing papers, etc etc etc.

      Good teachers will help where they can and bad teachers will be inflexible, you may need to avoid those.

      For the most part, this is true.
      But if there's a class you have to take with an inflexible teacher, keep making noise until your problems are addressed a

  • Diet/Exercise (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:47PM (#45954513)

    There are plenty of chemical/herbal compounds that you can take to improve cognitive abilities. However, aside from sleep with respect to controllable factors the absolute most powerful contributors to cognitive abilities are your diet and exercise. Both eating low quality (unhealthy) food as well as a sedentary lifestyle degrade cognitive performance immensely.

    My advise to you would be to ditch McRotten and visit your local gym regularly. As a side benefit you just might find yourself sleeping better too.

    • by Havokmon (89874)

      There are plenty of chemical/herbal compounds that you can take to improve cognitive abilities. However, aside from sleep with respect to controllable factors the absolute most powerful contributors to cognitive abilities are your diet and exercise. Both eating low quality (unhealthy) food as well as a sedentary lifestyle degrade cognitive performance immensely.

      My advise to you would be to ditch McRotten and visit your local gym regularly. As a side benefit you just might find yourself sleeping better too.

      Huh? Talk about a shot in the dark. Your post is about as on-topic as the "You just need to get more sex, Bro", post.

      That said, I do agree with both, but neither really address the OPs issue.

      • Perhaps you need to re-read the question... He reports that he is slow of mind and has difficulty with recollection then asks for help with this. To what do you point to in my post regarding improving his cognitive abilities as off-topic?
        • by Havokmon (89874)

          Perhaps you need to re-read the question... He reports that he is slow of mind and has difficulty with recollection then asks for help with this. To what do you point to in my post regarding improving his cognitive abilities as off-topic?

          You're assuming that he must have a poor diet. That's just as likely as him having a poor sex life. Neither can be alluded to by details in the parent post.

          Maybe he should lay off the weed.
          Maybe he should take fish-oil supplements.
          Maybe he should get a C-PAP machine.

          Ok - I suppose - other than lack of sleep since childhood, there's really not much detail to go on and just about any suggestion is a shot in the dark.

          • There are no assumptions embedded in there. If he can already check off these boxes of then he can move on to other suggestions such as study skills, academic accommodations, clinical diagnosis/treatment, etc.. Not knowing the applicability of something to a particular circumstance does not invalidate the merit of suggesting it. With regards to this subject, lifestyle is one of the biggest contributors to cognitive performance or lack thereof. It only makes sense to start there. If the TV won't turn on
  • There are different parts of the brain; one which is careful, considerate, and can deal with new tasks but is slow. The other is faster, but sloppier and harder to train. This is instinct. When the two of these work in harmony, the results are great. Train your instinct by many attempts via your considerate mind, with various amounts of attention and varying inputs, but with measurable correctness. Use your deliberate mind to do a quick sanity check on what your instinctual mind presents, but sharpen ways t

  • Rail it, all the cool ADHD kids are.

  • Obviously, doing something not-blatantly-unhealthy is probably a good idea; but amphetamines and modafinil are the tools of choice among students these days in need of a performance enhancement.

    If Modafinil has any serious downsides, they certainly are subtle ones. Unlike stimulants, which leave you tired but jittery, it just makes you not tired. The amphetamines, of course, are to be treated with respect and moderation(oral doses, ideally sustained release, you aren't trying to get high here); but can,
    • by Herkum01 (592704)

      The other problem with taking drugs can help you in the short-term, but it is sort of defeats the purpose. You are able to perform well for a short period but you are not able to retain the knowledge very well and you are not being educated so much as you are learning how to cram.

      I assume that if you are in the 30's going to school you are trying to get an education, not learn how to cram for tests.

  • by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:51PM (#45954585)
    I have a similar issue with not being able to sleep and not being able to focus on the task at hand thus taking much longer to finish things and for me it boiled down to the following 1) Get your body clock in order. Sleep and eat at fixed times as much as possible. Also, rest plentifully throughout the day 2) Eat the correct kind of food like fruits etc. Eating fast food for me has caused havoc on my stomach thus leading to sleep issues. Also, I reduced my sugar/candy/soda intake a lot. 3) Exercise. This is right up there with eat and sleep. 4) I realized that I was not finishing tasks because on some level I was not really interested in doing them. This you need to just do some thinking on what your goals are and are you really interested in doing what you are doing etc. 5) I also realized that I wasn't doing fun things enough that I would then be able to do my mundane work items. So on a daily or maybe at least weekly basis, participate in a fun/hobby activity. It is very refreshing. I am planning to buy a PS4 or XBOX for this soon. 6) I find that blocking out external noises and stimuli while working helps me focus on things. This along with making a log of what I am doing (learning Emacs org mode for this) helps me remember things much better. I bought noise cancelling headphones and turn off most notifications that are not important to me during the day as much as possible. 7) Most importantly, I realized focus/concentration is not something you build in a day or week. It takes a lot of time. It is literally like developing a muscle. You need to feed it right and work hard on it to sharpen it. Remember, you need a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. There is a lot of interest recently in mindfulness you can take a look at that. Hope this helps.
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:52PM (#45954607) Homepage

    Educational Psychology department at the local U about study strategies/study skills. Usually these are geared toward teachers (how to help their students to develop strategies) but sometimes they're even geared toward students at said U (how to study in college, and so on).

    These aren't classes about how to improve your brain, or about theory. They're very meat-and-potatoes: ways to organize note-taking, ways to organize reading activity and coordinate it with note-taking, ways to prepare for exams systematically and so on. What seems a problem of recall may be a problem of cognitive data architecture—not "it's not in there" but rather "you're not putting it in there in a way that lends itself to retrieval later on."

    I don't know your case or just how hard it is for you, but it's not uncommon for a broad cross-section of students to have many of the same complaints, and often the remedy is to learn differently (i.e. different, time-tested, sample-studied methods for effectively acquiring, organizing, and storing information) rather than to try to "do mental exercises" or improve some immanent property of themselves.

    And it's not common sense—they get down into things like how to lay out a page of notes, in geographical regions of the page; how to key words to paragraphs; how to note pages and where, etc. Very mechanical, technique-style stuff. You may find it helpful.

  • ...but you'd probably just forget it. So why bother?...

    • by boristdog (133725)

      I was going to go with the old Judge Smails quote: "Well, the world needs ditch diggers too."

  • How much of your class is really about memorization? Maybe you should try reading "Getting things done" by Paul Allen instead.

    http://www.davidco.com/ [davidco.com]

  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @03:00PM (#45954787) Journal
    Understanding is the key to an efficient and well organized memory system. Unprocessed data takes more effort to store, the more you understand and can interconnect what you know the more stable and long lasting the connections.
    • While I do not disagree with this, there are certain quanta of knowledge that form the building blocks of understanding. They form the language of discussion for a particular discipline and must be memorized as they cannot be deduced.
  • by LF11 (18760) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @03:02PM (#45954823) Homepage

    As a person who has gone back to school in his late 20's, I have struggled with some of what you describe. I'm going to just list out a few things I have done or ways I act to help improve my cognitive performance and memory.

    Firstly, memory is learned, not innate. Many of the world memory game finalists and champions are ordinary people who started practicing the Method of Loci (Memory Palace, other names as well) as a memorization technique and a couple years later are placing in memory games. I cannot possibly overstate the importance of this technique. With it, I pass hard memorization classes like Orgo and Physiology with straight A's. Without it, I fail. Curiously, I found that once I started using this technique, my overall memory improved considerably.

    OK, now a laundry list, in no particular order.

    *) Take less classes. If stuff takes more time, allocate accordingly.

    *) Nutrition is important. If you are deficient in B12 (many adults are slightly or moderately deficient in this) it will severely affect your cognitive ability and memory. Try daily supplementation with cyanocobalamin for a month. Also vitamin C, as well as eating a balanced diet. Vitamin D supplementation can help quite a bit, and some people (including myself) experience benefit from CoQ10 supplementation.

    *) What you eat is important as FUCK. Whatever food you put in your mouth, will take blood away from the brain. Eat simple, nutricious, easily-digested food for breakfast and lunch. If you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, that''s going to suck all the blood out of your brain and you won't be able to think. Try yogurt or smoothies instead, add raisins and nuts. Similarly, if you have a ham sandwich for lunch, your body is going to be digesting that instead of your class material. Don't do that. Eat minimally through the day in order to maximize cognitive function.

    *) Hunger is predatory. Being slightly hungry increases memory and processing speed, at least for me. Experiment.

    *) Stay away from sugar. Sugar is a drug that makes you fat, dumb, and happy. Minimize sugar intake as much as possible. Also stay away from artificial sweeteners; as bad as sugar is for your brain, it is a lot better than aspartame / nutrasweet / phenylalanine.

    *) Eat a well-balanced diet, minimizing processed foods and meats. Eat fruits, vegetables and beans. Some people find it is a good idea to stay well away from grains like rice and wheat. Experiment with your diet and find out what works for you. Universally, processed foods are bad, though.

    *) Exercise! This is a huge boost for making your brain work better. If you walk for 20 minutes every morning, your brain will work much better all day.

    *) This goes without saying, but stay away from marijuana. It takes several days for the effects of marijuana to fade from your cognitive faculties. If you smoke MJ, save it for academic breaks. (NOTE: plenty of people will disagree with me. No, I will not cite a source because I have none. But if you smoke MJ, stop for a while.)

    *) Stay away from alcohol. This drug also takes several days for your brain to recover from. Again, no scientific source, just my personal experience. If you are young and dumb, EtOH and MJ can be fine every night, but when you need to maximise every iota of brain performance that is a different story.

    *) Talk to your professors. Also talk to your school's psychiatric counselling. You may be able to get extra time to complete tests if you do suffer from memory or cognitive impairment. Unless you are planning to take the MCAT or GRE or something, most professors are more than happy to make lots of allowances for struggling students. Since you are an older student, I expect teachers will actually be even happier to help you. Most teachers really like having the maturity and motivation of older students in the classroom.

    *) Stay away from TV and video games. These interfere with learning. If you spend the day in lectures then spend

  • If you are still battling sleep problems, try reducing your exposure to light (especially blue light) in the evening. Most particularly, pull yourself away from the computer or the big-screen TV. Use dimmed incandescent bulbs (less blue light) to illuminate the paper you're working with. If you must use a computer, set your monitor for the warmest color balance you can select, and turn it down as far as you can without eyestrain.

    Avoiding mentally taxing activities late at night is also helpful, but probably

  • Learning and memorization is like any other skill, you need to practice it. Through High School I had to constantly go over material multiple times (up to 10) before I could remember what I needed for tests. In University, I got it down to a science. I needed three days of study for each course to prepare for exams. I needed to go over the material three times on three different days before it would finally sink in. Of course, having good notes makes a big difference too.

    Personally, I found that I took

  • AND I went back to college as well, but I am even older than you.
    My disorder has been under control for decades now, but I found similar issues re: studying/retaining info when going back to school.
    All I can say is that I found that daily exercise to get my heart up to 2X normal for 10-20 minutes really seemed to help tremendously.
    I have an elliptical at home and used that.
    If you don't have something like that, consider some other exercises to get your blood moving and in turn help your brain get nourishmen

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @03:12PM (#45955037)

    While there are a lot of funny posts to this request, there are some real techniques that help improve one's retention. In no particular order:

    1) Get ample sleep and have a regular schedule for sleep
    2) Increase the amount of exercise you do (improves blood flow to the brain).
    3) Minimize use of alcohol and other recreational drugs
    4) Take handwritten notes while in class and while studying (notes must be handwritten, not typed)
    5) Drink caffeinated beverages, but not to excess -- too much has a detrimental effect (ADHD meds work even better than caffeine, but require a prescription to be legal)
    6) Don't cram for exams, instead study every day at the same time.
    7) Leave time to read novels (studies show that reading novels stimulate areas of the brain used for recall in other situations)

    One thing that is fairly common in the above is consistency, whether with sleep, study times, etc. Shakespeare said "Consistency, what a rare gem, though art." When it comes to study habits, that is definitely true. Regardless of one's recall ability, the above suggestions, when used consistently, will improve one's capabilities.

  • Choose the right tool for the job. The right tool for this job is not Slashdot.

    Go see a doctor. A good GP will be able to point you to a specialist who may be able to better pinpoint exactly why you're having these issues and help you sort them out.

    Do your research, by all means--you'll need to be your own advocate--but there are people who dedicate their lives to figuring this sort of thing out. Talk to them, not us.

  • There are a plethora of studies out there tying memory and cognitive function to various things, including diet, sleep, type of learning, etc... Being in my 30's I can empathise with the problem, I just don't seem to pick things up as quickly as I did in my teens and 20's. It's not drastic, but it is noticable.

    Some foods have been tied to cognitive function. Read up a little bit here [huffingtonpost.com] and here [trueactivist.com]. Or do some googling for some more stuff. It's interesting that the traditional american diet of burger and fries is

  • First of all, google is your friend. This is something that has been studied by many people, and many effective are available for you to use. For example, I happen to like the Method of loci [wikipedia.org] which I use to memorize the main points of speeches and lists.

    Different people like different methods, and there's a buffet of effective methods to choose from. Again, google is your friend.

    That being said, here's the psychological answer:

    If you want to increase your long term memory, you start with the theory of memory

  • by meburke (736645) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @03:23PM (#45955253)

    There have been many memory courses and systems taught over the last couple of centuries. I personally liked, "How to Develop a Super Power Memory," by Harry Lorayne. It's old but good, and you only have to read it once. (!!!) http://www.amazon.com/How-Develop-Super-Power-Memory/dp/0811901815 [amazon.com]

    There are many others: One of my favorites for studying is, "Brainbooster" by Robert Finkle. It helps organize your memory system specifically for studying. http://www.amazon.com/New-Brainbooster-Hours-Learning-Remembering/dp/0802773524/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389726169&sr=1-6&keywords=brainboosters [amazon.com]

    I have over thirty how-to books on memory and learning that revolve around mnemonics. They all teach pretty much the same thing,, and some of them may appeal to you more than others, so check around. The books by Tony Buzan are pretty good, and some of them teach skills besides memory that apply to study.

    The book, "Find Your Focus Zone," by Lucy Palladino is terrific, and includes insights into how the brain works and how to make it work better. http://www.yourfocuszone.com/ [yourfocuszone.com]

    A lot of people don't study well because they don't take care of their body. I highly recommend, "The Four Hour Body," by Timothy Ferriss. As for learning, His book, "The Four-Hour Chef" is more about learning than cooking. (Tim did a show for Discovery called, "Trial by Fire" which followed him while he learned martial arts skills (Yabasume) equivalent to 20 years' ordinary practice in only about 4 months. He has a background in neuro science, so he seems to have access to a lot of cool resources.) http://www.amazon.com/4-Hour-Body-Uncommon-Incredible-Superhuman/dp/030746363X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389726764&sr=1-1&keywords=4+hour+body+by+timothy+ferris [amazon.com]

    Again, the connection between brain and body; "Change your Brain-Change your Body" by Daniel Amen. This is very much about Brain Fitness, but also syncs the health and fitness connection. http://www.amazon.com/Change-Your-Brain-Body-Always/dp/0307463583 [amazon.com]

    For fun read, "Moonwalking with Einstein," by Joshua Foer. It is an overview of the culture of people who train their memory for serious competition. http://www.amazon.com/Moonwalking-Einstein-Science-Remembering-Everything/dp/0143120530/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389726982&sr=1-1&keywords=walking+with+einstein [amazon.com]

    Good luck.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @03:32PM (#45955419) Journal
    The three pillars of good health are:

    1) Nutrition. Make sure you're giving your body energy.
    2) Exercise. Keeps your body capable. Cleans out bad stuff.
    3) Sleep. Gives your body time to rebuild itself.

    Once you have those figured out, then the answer is practice, and it will improve. Personal anecdote: I used to have horrible memory skills until I memorized a workable vocabulary in another language. Now I can handle memorization no problem.
  • First, it takes me way too long to complete tasks (as if suffering from time dilation) — tests take me approximately twice the amount of time to finish [and the amount of time it takes to study and do homework is cumulative and unsustainable].

    Sounds like you just need to schedule twice the amount of time to complete the tasks. Problem solved. :)

  • There are lots of advice, but I'll contribute to it. I have been teaching for a few years and I was a good student before that. So I guess my advice are meaningful.

    1/ SLEEP and HEALTH! Sleep is critical. Health is critical. Plenty of people apparently already pointed it out. But your body and your brain do need the sleep. Getting 2 more hours of sleep is typically more important than getting 2 more hours of study. Also, you will sleep better if your optic nerve is not too stimulated before you fall asleep.

  • Besides caffeine? Anything else which may be a factor?

  • Check your study habits. Group study is very effective. Apparently this is the "secret weapon" of Asian students, they tend to form more study groups. I use mnemonics quite a bit, e.g. OIL RIG == Oxidation Is Loss Reduction Is Gain.

  • The poster will never remember the answers.

  • ...you have Aspergers Syndrome. Look into it & find out for yourself. I had the same thought patterns until I realized how retarded traditional education is for a man of my age for my particular industry (where a degree will hinder your pay/employability significantly)
  • by pr0fessor (1940368) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:04PM (#45956017)

    "as if suffering from time dilation"

    I started having trouble in my 30s with concentration, memory, and can relate to the feeling of being trapped in some kind of time dilation field. I didn't experience it all the time, more frequently when I was under stress. Until one day the feeling became so bad that I went to the doctor. It was poor diet, I had low blood sugar {stress made it worse}. I cleaned up my diet according to the doctors recommendation and don't experience it any more.

    There are any number of things that can effect memory concentration consulting with a doctor that can run tests is probably a better place to start than /. Since you have suffered from sleep problems it may not be as simple as a poor diet but still a doctor is the right place to start.

  • Training (Score:5, Informative)

    by Peter H.S. (38077) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:13PM (#45956151) Homepage

    Memory and study technique are like all other efforts; they require regular training if you want to master them. There are no magic short cuts or pills that can remove the need of training. Some things like good sleep, exercise and not being stressed helps a lot, but you still need training.

    The training will be hard and progress frustratingly slow in the beginning (think overweight ex-chain smoker taking up jogging or cycling; it is tough going in the beginning.).

    Reading books is the key to success. You have to read regularly (like every day) and probably for more than an hour per day to make any difference (bed time reading excluded).

    Memory is a complex thing, but for studying purposes I find it useful to distinguish between "passive" and "active" memory. "Active" memory is the stuff you can recall and talk about for some length. "Passive" memory is something where you can recall the meaning when you read about it again. Just reading a book usually just produce "passive" memory. Talking about the book (or movie, or show, etc.) afterwards converts the passive memory to active memory.

    A good student is one that studies in such a way, that the most important stuff in the texts, are converted from passive to active memory.

    There are several classic techniques to convert passive book knowledge into active; discuss the book afterwards with others, write you thoughts about the text down (making notes is useful even if you never look at them again), or use your inner voice to recapitulate what you have just read, or even talk aloud to a fictitious audience. The latter was a major technique for Roman orators because it improves rhetorical skills as well. It will improve your verbal exams considerably if you train the same way.

    So try to start out with a small non-fiction book with a subject that you care for. Read a whole chapter, then reread it one page at a time, explaining to yourself with your inner voice using your own words, what was covered in that page and what parts were the important ones. Perhaps underline important passages.
    Afterwards, try to recapitulate major points from what your read, perhaps glancing at the index as a memory aid.

    Read another book on the subject in the same manner, and compare it underways (from memory only at first) to the first book.

    The above will not just convert passive memory to active memory, but it will also help you to actually understand in detail what was written instead of just reading the passage on autopilot without comprehension, it will help you focus on what is important, and the comparison will spawn memory connection between both text, so that one passage from one book, opens up the knowledge from the second book.

    The above is very slow and time consuming in the beginning, and it is hard work too. But don't worry, as time goes by, the speed will increase; you will develop your own way of committing the stuff to memory, and knowledge will make it easier to see what is important, and what is secondary.

    The point is to learn how to learn in a slow, systematic and thorough way in the beginning, later you brain will do much of the stuff automatically, and the speed will increase too.

    Read, recapitulate to understand what was read and to convert it from passive to active memory, try to identify what is key points, compare and connect the knowledge with similar subjects, read slow and thoroughly at first, and don't be afraid to reread stuff later.

    Good luck.

  • Weed (Score:4, Funny)

    by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:27PM (#45956369)

    Lots of weed. Wait, what was the question again?

  • by monk (1958) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @06:27PM (#45958043) Homepage

    I suffered a brain injury at the age of five due to head trauma. I've had several issues over the years including memory and other cognitive problems.
    Over the years, I've developed various coping strategies (lists, mnemonic tricks, remapping tasks to take advantage of strengths and minimize weaknesses).
    The most useful thing I've learned is that most people have to make up for deficits, and you are not at all unusual.

    The advice on exercise and healthy eating make sense in general, but you will also need to create some unfair advantages for yourself. Rather than depending on your own, natural memory, spend some focused time on mnemonic gimmicks. They aren't the same as learning, but they will allow you to carry lists around in your head like the world's most ingenious cheat sheet.

    I've had good results with an old copy of You Can Remember [amazon.com] By Dr. Bruno Furst. There may be better courses I don't know about, but this one gave me a bag of tricks I use every day to function almost as if I had a normal to exceptional memory.

    It's just a bag of tricks though, and only a doctor specializing in cognitive issues related to sleep disorders is likely to be able to help you with the root cause.

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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