Sent: 16-03-2010 10:05:15
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Brain Rules part 4
This continues my series on the 12 Brain Rules produced by Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant: I have so far outlined the first 4 rules, more are outlined here:
5. "Short-term Memory" - The Case for Connection
The brain has many types of memory systems. One type follows four stages of processing: encoding, storing, retrieving, and forgetting. Information coming into your brain is immediately split into fragments that are sent to different regions of the cortex for storage. Most of the events that predict whether something learned also will be remembered occur in the first few seconds of learning. The more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moments, the stronger it will be.
That is because when you can recall a piece of information immediately, it is stored in your short-term or "working" memory. To make a memory last longer, repeat it and link it to something familiar. For instance, students forget 90% of a classroom lesson in less than a month, but going over the material at regular intervals and associating one piece of data with another will improve their retention rates. Information in a list of unrelated items is harder to recall than material with meaningful connections to something familiar. Thus, people learn better when they can refer to familiar examples. To be more memorable, engage your listeners' elaborately and substantively. Something to remember if you are giving presentations!
- The human brain can only hold about seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds! Which means,your brain can only handle a 7-digit phone number. If you want to extend the 30 seconds to a few minutes or even an hour or two, you will need to consistently re-expose yourself to the information. Memories are so volatile that you have to repeat to remember.
- Improve your memory by elaborately encoding it during its initial moments. Many of us have trouble remembering names. If at a party you need help remembering Mary, it helps to repeat internally more information about her. "Mary is wearing a blue dress and my favorite color is blue." It may seem counterintuitive at first but study after study shows it improves your memory.
6. "Long-term Memory" - The Case for Repetition
Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time. Long-term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory is fixed in the cortex, which can take years.
Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one. The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.
Sound and images enhance short-term memory, but you won't retain information in your long-term memory without a stabilizing process called "consolidation," and subsequent recall and repetition, or "reconsolidation." Today's fresh memories can fade after a few years, forcing your brain to struggle to recall the specifics of events that once were clear. If you want to retain something, be deliberate. For example, ignoring continuing education and then studying all night before a test is counterproductive.
- It takes years to consolidate a memory. Not minutes, hours, or days but years. What you learn in first grade is not completely formed until much later in high school.
- How do you remember better? Repeated exposure to information / in specifically timed intervals / provides the most powerful way to fix memory into the brain.
- Think about the information within the first hour or so after you learn it.
- Immediately speak to other people about it in great detail.
- Have a good night's sleep and "rehearse" the information again afterward.
- Forgetting allows us to prioritize events. But if you want to remember, remember to repeat.
More next time:
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