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

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the hat-hen-ham-hare-hill dept.

Education 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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Sleep study (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954327)

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.

Re:Sleep study (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:Sleep study (4, Funny)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 9 months ago | (#45954525)

This tip is for someone asking on /. ? Seriously?

Re:Sleep study (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954615)

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

Re:Sleep study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954997)

I agree with comment #45954615
The middle part makes this perfectly in tune with /. culture

Re:Sleep study (4, Interesting)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:Sleep study (1)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about 9 months ago | (#45954975)

Dr. Richard Kimble is looking for you.

Re:Sleep study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954461)

Don't bother. How about trying to understand the material, rather than just memorizing it? Oh, but the myriad of crappy colleges don't want that.

I used to know... (4, Funny)

drwho (4190) | about 9 months ago | (#45954335)

but I forgot.

Re:I used to know... (3, Funny)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 9 months ago | (#45954565)

That reminds of an old joke ...

"Memory is the second thing to go when you get old.
I would tell you the first but I forgot."

Don't go to college, it's clearly not for you (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954337)

Take a path in life more suited to your abilities. Tests taking twice as long, and tasks taking too long mean that you are not able to do them acceptably.

You can live life fine without a college diploma or university degree - probably better.

You are not college material, in the same way as I am not cut out to play in the NFL, as much as either of us might like to.

Re:Don't go to college, it's clearly not for you (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954789)

Bullshit. I teach at a university and frequently have students that have trouble with their exams. What the OP should do is go see the Accommodated Services department (or equivalent) at his/her university and see what accommodations can be made. I frequently have students that are able to write exams in separate rooms, on a computer (if it helps them to type rather than write), and with extra time and breaks in the middle of the exam. If someone wants to do a university degree, there is no reason they should be unable to do so.

Re:Don't go to college, it's clearly not for you (3, Insightful)

queazocotal (915608) | about 9 months ago | (#45954829)

Unless they are not bright enough to do so.
Which would pretty much cause all of the symptoms mentioned above too.

Re:Don't go to college, it's clearly not for you (4, Insightful)

skids (119237) | about 9 months ago | (#45955017)

Believing "brightness" to be an intrinsic character trait is a psychological crutch for those who view their intelligence as their only redeeming quality. A large proportion of the variety of cognitive impairments can be overcome, many even cured, and people can and do get smarter. OP should be praised for embarking on a serious quest for self-improvement. If only those sitting on their laurels would do so as well.

Re:Don't go to college, it's clearly not for you (5, Insightful)

LF11 (18760) | about 9 months ago | (#45954863)

That's bullshit. I started out with similar troubles, and just had to learn better time management. Skip the time-consuming questions, focus on the fast questions, then go back and work out as much of the time-consuming questions as possible in the time alloted.

Few students do this.

Re:Don't go to college, it's clearly not for you (5, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about 9 months ago | (#45954865)

Except that it has been found that one of the single largest predictors of success in the study of math specifically (and I do believe this translates to many other areas) has been whether a person believes in talent and abilities vs learned skills.

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.

So if you really think it comes down to "abilities" then just go flip on the TV, you probably aren't going to find abilities in anything if you aren't willing to work at getting them.

go to a school there is about skills not test cram (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 9 months ago | (#45954345)

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

Re:go to a school there is about skills not test c (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954655)

Follow Joe Dragon's lead and go to a school where basic literacy isn't required.

Re:go to a school there is about skills not test c (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954941)

This.

See a psychologist. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:See a psychologist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954683)

100% good advice. This could be anything from vision problems to ADD. Not something that can be self treated based on advice from /.

Just remember the golden rule of long term memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954373)

Repetition is the key.

Re:Just remember the golden rule of long term memo (1)

jcoy42 (412359) | about 9 months ago | (#45954479)

Additionally, try to focus on repetition. Repetition is the key.

Repetition is the key. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954527)

Repetition is the key.

Repetition is the key.

Repetition is the key.

Re: Repetition is the key. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954845)

There was something about a key but I can't recall... key... key, wait, a lock?

No, wait, not a lock. A door. A door!

Uhm, what about the door? College is HARD!

Study help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954385)

One thing I recently learned was that controlled breathing while studying really improves your focus and definitely improved my retention. A guy showed me how to breath in and out with slow breaths 5 secs on the inhale and exhale first through the mouth and then after i got the timing down, the nose.

From what I have heard, it is the same type of technique used by snipers.

Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling (1, Insightful)

Nutria (679911) | about 9 months ago | (#45954399)

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.

Re:Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling (5, Insightful)

YumoolaJohn (3478173) | about 9 months ago | (#45954505)

Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling

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

Re:Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling (3, Insightful)

Sean James Brophy (3291099) | about 9 months ago | (#45954543)

This is hogwash. Education has nothing to do with memorization. Memorization is not understanding. Two entirely different beasts.

Re:Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 9 months ago | (#45954759)

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 games on DS, PS1, PS2, PS3, PC, and Wii.

The guy can't memorize times tables. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954761)

The guy can't memorize times tables. That is not just random "memorization", there are patterns and other contextual clues such as relationships to prime numbers, etc.

I imagine he has difficulty learning new words, terms, acronyms, etc.

That level of memorization is absolutely a core requirement for education and understanding.

How can you understand complex concepts if you can't remember the simple ones?

Re:The guy can't memorize times tables. (1)

Sean James Brophy (3291099) | about 9 months ago | (#45955021)

The guy can't memorize times tables. That is not just random "memorization", there are patterns and other contextual clues such as relationships to prime numbers, etc.

I imagine he has difficulty learning new words, terms, acronyms, etc.

That level of memorization is absolutely a core requirement for education and understanding.

How can you understand complex concepts if you can't remember the simple ones?

Wrong. I can't memorize my times tables either. I am consistently above average in my math courses, and am now taking second year math courses. Think again. Understanding simple concepts and memorizing formulas/terms/tables are entirely different.

Re:Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954951)

Memorization and understanding are both connected to education. You definitely don't want too much of the former, or emphasis on one as a replacement for the other, but you do need some of both. You need understand in order to combine and apply knowledge to new situations, but you still need some basis in knowledge to apply. The exact balance will vary with field.

For example, if you want to learn programming, you need a fundamental understanding of what the computer is doing, and some basics in math and algorithms goes a long way to big picture design. But if you can't remember the syntax of a language, you are going to have trouble getting far. If you can't remember some of the basic objects and functions in a framework or API relevant to your project, it could be painfully or even inhibitively slow to constantly be looking those up.

An intro level physics course shouldn't have you memorizing equations, and should be emphasizing how to combine them together to deal with various situations. But if you ever go to a higher level physics course, you won't get far if you have to keep looking up some of the basic equations.

While it is good start to learn some of the basic ideas and where to go to look things up if you need the things you can remember, practical level skills frequently require applying things from memory.

Re:Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 9 months ago | (#45954875)

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.

Re:Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling (1)

burningcpu (1234256) | about 9 months ago | (#45954917)

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?

Re:Memorizing stuff is pretty central to schooling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954965)

Dude don't be so quick to slap a disabled label on the guy because he's having memory issues. Maybe its his lifestyle thats affecting his brain. It happens. Work burn out, family issues, lack of physical exertion, lack of fun or social interactivity can (i believe) be contributing factors. You just have to re-asses your life, see what needs change, and try different things to see what works. Exercise, supplements and a little fun(whatever that is for you) can help things.

Not an easy answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954407)

You're asking the wrong audience, unless there are people here who have experienced similar troubles. You need to talk to qualified specialists.

The general advice seems to be: eat healthy, regular aerobic exercise, get the right amount of high-quality sleep, and do lots of memory practice (get the right amount of sleep for you -- my memory suffers if I sleep too much)

In your case, general advice probably isn't adequate

Re:Not an easy answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954667)

Of course you are offering advice which is self contradicting.
Sir I advise you to not follow advice from this forum!

Re:Not an easy answer (5, Insightful)

xclr8r (658786) | about 9 months ago | (#45954773)

I'm in a similar situation only older . Here is what is working for me (going from D's to A- and B+'s)

You're older - it will take longer to assimilate information. Plan accordingly - that means studying on the weekend in advance of the class not night before. Ask the professor to point to any large blocks of information that you should commit to memory at the beginning of the semester in preparation.

You are not a sponge - all night-ers are not going to help. Give yourself at least two nights of rest and then test your recall.

Taking twice as long on tests seems on the long end - I take about 1.5x the time of traditional students on tests. Realize that some of them don't know the material either so are just turning in what they can. That said get a learning disability test to see if you do need special considerations (it may just be using a quiet area to take a test with no people around is all you need to focus).

Usually (depending on field) the lower division courses are memorization and the upper division courses show how parts work in systems which is the important aspects.

Try and see your study material in an applied setting. Putting pictures/experience to terms that need to be memorized is vital.

Good luck.

Stop making excuses and just get it done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954413)

This is what our society has turned into.

Non-traditional students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954431)

I'm in a similar boat as you only older. I've found that wrote memorization actually does not stick but if you have to then writing the information down over and over again will eventually help. There is no way around longer study times for those of us in our later years - we are not sponges like in our youth. What works for me is relating the item to be memorized with it's application and how it works in a system. This is natural and why you see historically lots of older members be community leaders and arbiters over internal conflict.

Hopefully at the end of the course you will use this broader long view perspective to your advantage and your upper division courses will value and reward that insight but you have to get the foundation down first. Good luck.

Nootropics (4, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

+1, and include simple sugars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954919)

during exams. Something quick hitting, like 5 & 6 carbon types.

wetware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954435)

check out rewrite your wetware, a developers guide.

Also try reading material last thing at night, over and over. Then it's often just "there" when you need it.

Logic Puzzles (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 9 months ago | (#45954439)

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 for people with the occasional ADD symptom, though.

Re:Logic Puzzles (1)

laejoh (648921) | about 9 months ago | (#45954923)

Start with binary sudokus and work your way up from there!

Please get tested for a learning disability. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954457)

From your description of your challenges, it sounds like you may have a learning disability.
I know from the experiences of my son, who has a written output disorder, that schools are willing and able to make accommodations for students who take longer to do their work-- but only if a diagnosis of some sort is in hand.
As an educator myself, I also know that instructors and school administrators want their students to succeed.

Reading comprehension (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954469)

Is it possible that you have an issue with reading comprehension?

Tests burn me out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954481)

Back in high school and later in college (equivalent), when taking tests, I was 120% concentrated, and five minutes after the test was over, I couldn't even remember whether I'd written my name on the paper. Or anything, really. Almost total test-related amnesia. Funny how it works.

I know of four means (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 9 months ago | (#45954485)

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....

disabilites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954503)

Have you been tested for any learning disabilities? If not, I'd advise you to check with your university's disability office and get checked out. If you do have LD, they will acccomodate it.

Re:disabilites? (1)

_anomaly_ (127254) | about 9 months ago | (#45954717)

Good suggestion. I have a friend whose wife returned to college in her 30's and had difficulty with testing. I'm not sure what office it is, but they allowed her to take her tests apart from the other students, and on a different time table. I think it has really helped her, at least with the testing part.

Re:disabilites? (1)

slugstone (307678) | about 9 months ago | (#45954915)

Yes get yourself tested for learning disabilities. It does help knowing, but do not go through the university for the testing. Also getting a BS/BA does not mean it will get you a job.

Question (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | about 9 months ago | (#45954511)

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.

Re:Question (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 9 months ago | (#45954679)

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 and don't be ashamed to get the school administration involved.

If you don't advocate for yourself, no one else will.

Diet/Exercise (4, Informative)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:Diet/Exercise (1)

Havokmon (89874) | about 9 months ago | (#45954785)

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.

interaction of mind components (1)

drwho (4190) | about 9 months ago | (#45954533)

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 to judge quickly.

Gameplay can be good for this. For instance, playing solitaire on the computer. Sure, solitaire isn't a valuable life skill of itself, but you can exercise your brain and build confidence in your learning systems with it. Action games also provide this, in varying degrees.

Of course, nutrition is also important.

adderall (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 9 months ago | (#45954541)

Rail it, all the cool ADHD kids are.

See a profrssional (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954571)

If you are in your 30's and cannot remember the multiplication tables, you need to see a professional, not ask for help here. You need a physician to check for general medical conditions, and then a specialist such as a neurologist to check for neurologic disorders. The fact that you asked this question here also may mean you have a problem with judgement and may need psychologic evaluation.

Albert Einstein said... (1)

bi$hop (878253) | about 9 months ago | (#45954573)

...never memorize something you can look up (after a reporter asked for Einstein's phone number and Einstein retrieved the phone book).

Re:Albert Einstein said... (1)

_anomaly_ (127254) | about 9 months ago | (#45954809)

Good quote, but it doesn't apply. Most university courses won't allow you access to reference materials during exams or quizzes.

At the engineering school I attended, during what we affectionally called boot camp (the first 3 semesters where you take Calc 1-3, once a day for an hour, with a test and a quiz every week), we weren't even allowed calculators during exams, much less a text book.

Nature's Hugs... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#45954583)

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, somewhat surprisingly, sharpen the hell out of your focus. Just be careful. In my experience, they Don't improve the targeting of your focus. If they help you maintain intense focus on a piece of work for far longer than would otherwise be possible, great. If they help you maintain intense focus on completing 100% of the achievements in Dishonored, less useful; but they'll do either depending on the situation you put yourself in.

What I have done for this (5, Interesting)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | about 9 months ago | (#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:What I have done for this (1)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | about 9 months ago | (#45954643)

I forgot this one thing - try to develop a reading habit. Read a book or novel or anything for some extended period of time. Like more than 20-25 mins or something. That helped me as well. I try to do this before going to bed.

Over the counter Supplements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954597)

Use this over the counter supplement called "Choline". It has absolutely no known side-effects and it really works.

You need a system. Look for classes in the (4, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | about 9 months ago | (#45954607)

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.

Drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954625)

There has been recent research in brain-disease treating drugs being good for healthy people. Investigate the use of anticonvulsants as well as Parkingson's- and Alzheimer's-treating drugs, as well as nootropics. I would recommend you explore off-label use of these drugs with a psychiatrist wiling to prescribe them based on research studies. Also, you should get a sleep study done and maybe consider a CPAP machine if you are having trouble breathing in your sleep. Ambien and other sleep-inducing drugs may also work, although with all of these chemical solutions you might want to consider the risk of dependency, side-effects, and long-term damage that may be caused.

memory tricks and tips (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 9 months ago | (#45954631)

Hi. Here are a few thoughts. Firstly, be sure you have your sleep issues addressed. Second, some nutritional supplements can aid with memory (some or all of this may be bullshit, but at least be sure you are getting balanced nutrition to rule this out as a source of problems). Next up.. there are lots of tricks and techniques you can use to systematically improve your memory. One method we studied years ago was Memory Power, by Harry Lorayne. There are loads of other programs, but this was the one we happened to choose and it works pretty well. We didn't put it to full use, but still have the basic techniques at our disposal and they are very useful. Some of the keys are employing visualization and mnemonic techniques to make things "stick" better.

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

Lastly, don't be discouraged. We can make incremental and even revolutionary improvements at any age.

Good luck!

Give time, get time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954651)

Take time to pray, and learn to be disciplined. Wake up at the same time, every day, and make sure it's early enough to take a relaxed shower (shown to improve cognitive function, particularly creativity, perhaps because of how you come out of dreams, while waking). These things have helped me, with similar issues.

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” - Martin Luther

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." - 1 Timothy 2:17

I cannot emphasize the prayer part, enough. It seems counter-intuitive, and I am not trying to be religulous, here, but, as Jesus said, "wisdom is proved by its result."

Stop Ejaculating (I'm serious) (0)

Adeptus_Luminati (634274) | about 9 months ago | (#45954657)

Contrary to popular belief, sex, or more correctly, ejaculation isn't good for you. Sure it might feel like the best thing in the world for all of 10 seconds, but afterwards you will feel far more tired and emotionally distant and negative. For each subsequent ejaculation you will feel even more tired and even more emotionally negative. Depending on how old and healthy you are, excessive ejaculation can lead to excessive tiredness and emotional depression (although the effect is usually temporary).

How does this relate to your concern? Ejaculation has a direct effect on your energy levels and thus has the same effect as sleep deprevation, again depending on frequency of ejaculation and your age/health.

If you don't believe me try ejaculating 3 times what you normally do in 1 day, then tell me I'm wrong. For further proof, try the exact opposite. Stop ejaculating for at least 2-4 weeks, then tell me your energy, sleep and memory haven't improved significantly.

Forget That Shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954757)

Forget that shit! It's totally worth lacking memory in favor of the sex.

Re:Stop Ejaculating (I'm serious) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954981)

This.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say it's 'bad for you', I totally agree that it can sap your energy/interest/motivation for a few hours at least and thus have a dampening effect on getting the shit that needs to be done, done. While it can be difficult to overcome the urge, ultimately resisting can be useful in channeling your energies to other, more important tasks. And no, I'm not 'anti-masturbation', I just wanted to say I think he is correct in his anecdotal observations.

Electrical stimulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954671)

applied at the temples works wonders...

Tips (1)

TBoneBot (3499847) | about 9 months ago | (#45954675)

10) Take breaks. For every hour (or possibly less) of study, take a 15-20 min break. 9) Sleep: NEVER pull an all nighter, start your studying in advance (small bits, earlier vs. big chunks last minute) 8) Re-write: take notes in class, and re-write notes in words that you understand (explain things to yourself) 7) Draw: make diagrams in your notes 6) Talk: talk to others, explain what your learned 5) Questions: write notes in the form of questions, then answer your questions (this helps for studying later) 4) Good health: exercise and eat healthy to support your body in keeping up with the demands and stresses of learning. 3) Emotions: Try and relate things to your life in a meaningful way. You're more likely to remember if it has personal meaning to you. 2) Use your body: make an effort to keep an open body posture when learning to ensure you are "open" to the info 1) Don't memorize - UNDERSTAND. Wtf? If you make an effort to really understand what you're learning you won't need to memorize, it will just come (kind of like how striving for good health brings on weight loss naturally. Those who do the action experience the consequences).

Sure, I could tell you the solution... (1)

tippe (1136385) | about 9 months ago | (#45954677)

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

Memory issue or disorganized? (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 9 months ago | (#45954699)

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]

Re:Memory issue or disorganized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954739)

*David Allen

Is your material interesting? (1)

itwasgreektome (785639) | about 9 months ago | (#45954719)

First of all, I would ask you if you're very interested in the subject you are studying? If it's your first year, chances you are doing all your GEs and some of them can be hard and boring as hell. If it is a boring class, chances are your memory isn't to blame, because everyone reads and remembers boring stuff poorly. I speak from experience. After being a straight A student in high school, I went to one of the top 20 schools in the nation, only to realize I was failing after a year or so going there. I couldn't wake up for classes, I slept in most of the day, I couldn't pay attention, etc. For a student who prized himself based upon grades, I wasn't feeling great about myself. Luckily I found out about the student psychological services. Turns out I was suffering from a mild depression and ADD. ADD? How could that be possible, I'd been a straight A student and never ran around the classroom, though I did like to blurt comments out at my teachers when I felt so inspired. I was suffering from ADD, inattentive (daydreamer) non hyperactive type. The depression stemmed from my poor performance in school. I was given different meds for the ADD until we finally found one that worked, and I took it for about a year to get on track. Now, to the point, I ended up in the most awesome major- Cognitive Science. I found it insane and awesome all at once, it engaged my brain, I loved going to school then! I was able to stop taking the meds altogether because the material enthralled me that much! I've been able to stay off the meds for 9 years altogether because the material was that interesting. Two points- get yourself checked out at the school student psych services center. You may be suffering from depression, ADD, Insomnia, any other myriad of conditions they might be able to help with, sometimes just with techniques and not pills. Secondly, find a major you love not one you think that will love you in turns of money. Good luck.

Try to get a learning profile (0)

liquiddark (719647) | about 9 months ago | (#45954731)

Different people learn differently [alberta.ca] . Consider the possibility that you are simply not using the learning style best suited to you. There are tools [wizcomtech.com] to help [livescribe.com] with this.

The sleep thing as well, obviously. But consider that you may not have a fruitful approach to learning in general.

Leaning Disabilitiy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954737)

It sounds like you may have an undiagnosed learning disability.

Many of the big universities and colleges in the United States provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities, such as being allowed to take 2x regular time to finish exams and quizzes, as well as some kind of support regarding the doing of homework and studying. To obtain such accommodations, you would have to go to your institution's "learning disability center" (unfortunately, there is no standardized name for it), fill out some paperwork and get examined/tested to determine if indeed you do have a disability, and if so, what accommodations would be appropriate/fair to be given you. They will probably also be able to advise you on the kind of medial treatment you might need.

Re:Leaning Disabilitiy (2)

niado (1650369) | about 9 months ago | (#45954907)

It sounds like you may have an undiagnosed learning disability.

Many of the big universities and colleges in the United States provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities, such as being allowed to take 2x regular time to finish exams and quizzes, as well as some kind of support regarding the doing of homework and studying. To obtain such accommodations, you would have to go to your institution's "learning disability center" (unfortunately, there is no standardized name for it), fill out some paperwork and get examined/tested to determine if indeed you do have a disability, and if so, what accommodations would be appropriate/fair to be given you. They will probably also be able to advise you on the kind of medial treatment you might need.

This is almost exactly what I was going to post. If you cannot memorize the multiplication tables (generally considered a trivial tasks for adults) then you have some more-or-less serious problem that is dramatically impacting you intellectually. The only modification to the above would be to perhaps see a physician first (start with a general practitioner). You could have any number of treatable conditions that might respond well to medication or behavioral modification. This is especially the case considering your history of what you describe as a "childhood sleep disorder".

This is not to say that you are any less "intelligent" or "smart" than your peers, so please do not take this the wrong way. Your potential could be very high, you just might need outside assistance to reach it.

Repetition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954743)

Having mostly overcome similar symptoms onset from different causes, I can suggest what worked for me: Repetition as a primary strategy for learning.

I no longer bother trying to grasp the minutia on my first pass, I use it and a couple of subsequent passes to establish familiarity. Candidly, I can barely describe the material as a whole after a single read. But the more times I cover the material, the more firmly the fine details become lodged in my memory and my test scores are back above 95%.

This replaces my earlier method of carefully understanding and ingesting material in one or two passes; and because I'm not reading carefully from the outset it doesn't take much more time than the original method. The first few times you try this, expect to worry if the material will ever stick in your memory, but usually I find that 10 fast passes separated by a few minutes spent doing other things makes me the most knowledgable student in every class.

Moonwalking with Einstein (1)

dannysosa (2703843) | about 9 months ago | (#45954745)

You need to sleep enough, eat well, and exercise.. After that, I recommend reading Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. It's chock full of research, great read.

Ask Slashdot: How Can I Improve My Memory For Stud (1)

danielpauldavis (1142767) | about 9 months ago | (#45954753)

Your brain is like any other muscle: the more you do with it, the more you are able to do with it. Trouble remembering? Start CONSCIOUSLY working on developing your memory by CONSCIOUSLY working on memorizing stuff. It matters not what because it matters not whether you lift 10 pounds of feathers or 10 pounds of lead 50 times. The effort at memorization is what your brain needs. I memorized the Book of Proverbs, 1 chapter at a time. It took me 6-7 years, but there it is. Patient, persistant self-discipline (i.e., self-training) develops the skill.

Stop trying to memorize!! (4, Insightful)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 9 months ago | (#45954787)

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.

2 tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954793)

These are just my own speculation, so take it with a grain of salt.

First, avoid memorizing anything. Understand how the concept works and why. If you know this you don't need to memorize all the little cases around [concept] because you can answer any question about it by thinking about how it works.

example: I don't need to memorize IV means 4 and VI means 6 if I understand how roman numerals work.

Second, you can improve memory recall by associating a memory with as many references as possible. Mnemonics are an example of this by linking a work or phrase to the concept you are memorizing.

examples: I memorize a friends phone number by the pattern it makes on the keypad. I associate the new client's name with the smell of their perfume.

YES there is LOTS to help! (5, Interesting)

LF11 (18760) | about 9 months ago | (#45954823)

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 a couple hours watching TV or gaming, which one is your brain going to cement as you sleep? The boring lecture, or the immersive audio/visual experience tailored to capture your attention? Again, no cite here, just personal experience.

These are all things apart from repairing your sleep that may help you.

Go look up the Method of Loci. Seriously. It will change your life.

Also, Cal Newport's "Study Hacks" has helped me out quite a bit, though I've never bought his book.

Good luck!

Melatonin (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 9 months ago | (#45954827)

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 incompatible with college.

Try melatonin, available OTC at least here in the US. Your body uses it as a signal for sleep. It's effective orally, and it's essentially impossible to overdose, but you should try to stick with the smallest amount that's effective.

You can overcome this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954867)

Firstly, ignore the naysayers who say you aren't cut out for College/University. These are the same people who would have tried to dissuade other intellectual luminaries who also had trouble in primary/secondary schools and colleges/universities. Just because you are slower on the curve does not mean you can't obtain a college degree/education. Good on you for admitting your troubles and seeking help.

That being said, I think the obvious answer here is to try and seek professional help to address your cognitive/learning/sleep issues whether that be a psychologist/psychiatrist/doctor or other health care professional. I had similar issues with ADHD and concentration in all levels of school and, while it was difficult, I did overcome these challenges and eventually graduated from college. It's great that you are being proactive and trying to address your learning disability in a constructive manner.

Lastly, a quote: "Don't let the turkeys keep you from soaring from the eagles."

cerebrolysin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954899)

Try cerebrolysin. it works great for me! http://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/18dvy9/anyone_try_cerebrolysin/

Perfect solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45954903)

I knew of one, except I can't remember it anymore :(

Learning to Learn (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | about 9 months ago | (#45954989)

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 in more material if I am slightly drowsy when I was in class (i.e. almost napping). I find that if I am fully awake, my brain is too busy thinking about other things which gets in the way of learning. Fortunately, I am at the point in my career and education where memorization isn't as important as being able to apply the knowledge.

BTW, you might want to try taking an online course. I took several when finishing up my Masters degree. They require less memorization and more practical skills and the exams/tests tend to be open book timed. However, if you take online courses there is less socialization. So, if you want to meet people, make sure that you also take some campus courses.

I also have a sleep disorder (1)

microcars (708223) | about 9 months ago | (#45955015)

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 nourishment.
It won't happen overnight, but made a difference for me at least.

vitamins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45955023)

Lions mane mushrooms, gingko biloba, l-carnitine, tDCS therapy

QUIZ YOURSELF (1)

UniAce (713592) | about 9 months ago | (#45955027)

I am a cognitive scientist (Ph.D.) who studies the workings of human memory. The number one thing you can do improve your learning is to QUIZ YOURSELF.

Every time you retrieve some information from memory, you STRENGTHEN that information in your memory, making it easier to retrieve again in the future. So when you study new information, DON'T just re-read it multiple times. Read it, then quiz yourself (try to remember the info on your own), wait a while, quiz yourself some more, quiz yourself again later, etc.

Key terms: "testing effect" or "retrieval practice". For example, here's just one peer-reviewed psychology publication that summarizes relevant scientific research, and some implications for education: Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J.D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181-210. [PDF] [wustl.edu]

Master sun says: (1)

Papabravo (1278230) | about 9 months ago | (#45955029)

Sun Tzu's The Art of War: "In difficult ground, press on; On hemmed-in ground, use subterfuge; In death ground, fight." I say fight since you appear to be on death ground academically.

Study technique (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Prepare and change your mind set. (1)

zacherynuk (2782105) | about 9 months ago | (#45955039)

As stated above, Exercise is probably the easiest way to awaken your mind and body. Energetic sex is a bonus.

Exercise will clear and sharpen your mind and prepare your body for sleep. If sleep and stresses are an issue, I have found both herbal remedies (Like sleepeze) and meditation - I used to 'do' Astral Travel to add some fun, although essentially bollocks - it improves your imagination, your ability to create scenarios and force you to remember objects and locations. All improving your brains functions. As a side note it makes cashing in your wank-bank memories more rewarding.

But this all leads up to not relying on parrot-fashion learning. Rarely does vocational study require intense parrot-fashion study - it's the easy way out for young mind - prep for an exam and pass it, never use it again (generally) - or if possible keep aspect for later reference (Doctors have to be able to do this, just so they know of the existence of things to diagnose properly later on, good IT people also have this ability: to remember the contents as it were, without full details, just enough to know to look it up later.

You need to know WHY you need to know what you are expected to learn. Once of my terms at uni was mostly maths - PURE maths - 8hrs Monday 4hrs Tuesday, APPLIED Maths 4hrs Wednesday and 8 hrs Thursday. Friday was an optional Physics seminar, but without the Friday - there was no way my under experienced brain could link together the weeks workings....the fact that it was optional was a critical factor in what sort of student turned up; sure we had the whizz kids who could recite everything and pass it easy and didn't have to attend Friday - but without exception, come hard stuff a few years later - AI, 3D rendering and associated calc, functional programming and even more abstract things like compression & artifact removal the people who did well were the people who attended the optional seminar; the people who had been able to link information with knowledge with reason with application.

Do not be afraid to interact and ask questions about the usage of the knowledge imparted to you. This will help you apply it and keep you focused during testing time.

Perhaps not a time for DIY (1)

American AC in Paris (230456) | about 9 months ago | (#45955051)

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.

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