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

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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  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:10PM (#45957007) Journal

    That is to say, it was found that people who believe math to be a talent perform worst than people who believe it is a skill that can be mastered with effort.

    Suppose math IS a talent. Then those without that talent would have tried and failed to get good at math. They would correctly believe that math is a talent.

    Those who have the talent would have tried and succeeded, and since people tend to believe that their experience is common experience, they would assume that people who are bad at math didn't try. So they would incorrectly believe that math is a skill instead of a talent.

    Your data is consistent with either conclusion.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.