July 18, 2006

Two memory tips.

From today's Science Times.

1. If you want to remember something, study it right before you go to sleep.
Sleep... plays an active role in consolidating memories. “Rather than being a passive state, it’s a dynamic neurobiological process,” said Dr. Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, the lead researcher. “It turns out that the process of memory doesn’t end when we stop studying, but continues during sleep. That’s important to all of us.”
2. If you want to avoid the memory decline associated with old age, stop believing in that association:
“The implication is that some of the things we say about ourselves in conversation — joking about ‘senior moments’ is a perfect example — these kinds of comments may in fact undermine our own memory at the time we’re saying them,” Dr. Hummert said. “And the fear is that it has a cumulative effect, that it becomes a negative feedback cycle.
On a larger issue, why are people so ready to say "I have a terrible memory." People who would never say, "I'm really not very intelligent," have no problem insulting their own memory. Quit doing that! It's probably making your memory worse. Try to memorize something at night before you go to sleep, following Tip #1, supra. Then, give yourself credit for your achievement, following my extension of Tip #2.

You won't forget to do this.

13 comments:

Gerry said...

Won't forget to do what?

Jake said...

During sleep, the brain compares items in your short-term memory to those in your long term memory. It tries to make associations between the two memories and if your brain can make a logical association, it stores the result.

That is why the old adage of sleeping on a problem because you will wake up with the solution-works.

Goesh said...

I think a big daily dose of Omega 3s will do more good....

Balfegor said...

If you want to remember something, study it right before you go to sleep.

Excellent approach! This is exactly what I have always done, when I can manage it. When I was in college, and had to memorise a swath of lines for an amateur theatrical in a day or two (the student filling the role had for some reason become unexpectedly unavailable). I recorded MP3s of the relevant scenes (broken into digestible chunks), played them back on endless repeat, and spoke the lines along with the recording as I went to sleep. And it worked very well.

I did the same thing for the bar exam, only I read out my outlines. And I passed, so that worked reasonably well too.

michael said...

On a larger issue, why are people so ready to say "I have a terrible memory." People who would never say, "I'm really not very intelligent," have no problem insulting their own memory.

Probably because memorization does not necessarily equate to intelligence. Would you posit that your computer is smarter than you?

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth Anne Adams said...

From Ann Althouse to Zig Ziglar.

It's true more often than not: what you think about, you bring about.

Doug Sundseth said...

"People who would never say, "I'm really not very intelligent," have no problem insulting their own memory."

I see it as pretty directly analogous to "I just don't understand math." (My internal response is usually, 'Well, work harder then'.) Those same people would never consider saying, "I just don't understand reading."

There's nothing about memory, or reading, or math that would make them inherently impossible for a typical person. (There are obviously atypical people with cognitive disabilities for whom these things are impossible or nearly so.) The costs can be fairly high, though, and the cost-benefit analysis, whether explicit or implicit, can support choosing to expend effort elsewise.

Bruce Hayden said...

Maybe the analogy with math is appropriate here. I am one of those who is not good at memory, but am good at math. And that is maybe one of the reasons that I don't try that hard to memorize things. I still have a vivid memory of some failed attempts over 40 years ago, when I worked very hard to memorize some things for school, and failed. I have rarely needed to memorize that much since then, and, thus, haven't built up the skills necessary to do so.

For example, I needed to know some trig about 30 years ago. Of course, I didn't remember the equations. No problem. I could just derive them on the fly, still get done on time, and ace the test. And that has been my crutch - if I understand something well enough, I don't need to memorize it.

The reason that we worry about forgetting more is most likely that it is a sign of our aging. Loss of muscle tone, gray hair, etc. aren't all that worrisome to at least me. But not being able to think of a word that is on the tip of my toungue, that I would have known instantly 5 years ago, is.

It is that the generation that is starting to experience some slight memory loss, the baby boomers, are the first of the Youth Generation. Everything revolved around our Youth, including a lot of our claimed authority. But the Youth Generation is rapidly losing their youth, as they quickly slide toward (or even scarier, slide into) retirement.

tim maguire said...

On a larger issue, why are people so ready to say "I have a terrible memory." People who would never say, "I'm really not very intelligent," have no problem insulting their own memory.

Ironically, usually it's the more intelligent people who are comfortable insulting their own intelligence.

ignacio said...

"The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field" by Jacques Hadamard deals with some of this.

jult52 said...

I'm a serious amateur musician and I often have had the experience of practicing a passage one day and having difficulties then practicing it the next day and being able to play it (at least much better).

Dawn said...

This has worked for me through nursing school, especially with learning fluid balance, pH and the acidosis/alkalosis relationship.

What you think you can accomplish, you will.