Train Your Brain to Remember Anything You Learn With This Simple, 20-Minute Habit

Not too long ago, a colleague and I were lamenting the process of growing older and the inevitable increasing difficulty of remembering things we want to remember. That becomes particularly annoying when you attend a conference or a learning seminar and find yourself forgetting the entire session just days later.

But then my colleague told me about the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, a 100-year-old formula developed by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who pioneered the experimental study of memory. The psychologist’s work has resurfaced and has been making its way around college campuses as a tool to help students remember lecture material. For example, the University of Waterloo explains the curve and how to use it on the Campus Wellness website.

I teach at Indiana University and a student mentioned it to me in class as a study aid he uses. Intrigued, I tried it out too–more on that in a moment. The Forgetting Curve describes how we retain or lose information that we take in, using a one-hour lecture as the basis of the model. The curve is at its highest point (the most information retained) right after the one-hour lecture. One day after the lecture, if you’ve done nothing with the material, you’ll have lost between 50 and 80 percent of it from your memory.

By day seven, that erodes to about 10 percent retained, and by day 30, the information is virtually gone (only 2-3 percent retained). After this, without any intervention, you’ll likely need to relearn the material from scratch. Sounds about right from my experience. But here comes the amazing part–how easily you can train your brain to reverse the curve.


With just 20 minutes of work, you’ll retain almost all of what you learned.

This is possible through the practice of what’s called spaced intervals, where you revisit and reprocess the same material, but in a very specific pattern. Doing so means it takes you less and less time to retrieve the information from your long-term memory when you need it. Here’s where the 20 minutes and very specifically spaced intervals come in.

Ebbinghaus’s formula calls for you to spend 10 minutes reviewing the material within 24 hours of having received it (that will raise the curve back up to almost 100 percent retained again). Seven days later, spend five minutes to “reactivate” the same material and raise the curve up again. By day 30, your brain needs only two to four minutes to completely “reactivate” the same material, again raising the curve back up.

Thus, a total of 20 minutes invested in review at specific intervals and, voila, a month later you have fantastic retention of that interesting seminar. After that, monthly brush-ups of just a few minutes will help you keep the material fresh.


Here’s what happened when I tried it.

I put the specific formula to the test. I keynoted at a conference and was also able to take in two other one-hour keynotes at the conference. For one of the keynotes, I took no notes, and sure enough, just shy of a month later I can barely remember any of it.

For the second keynote, I took copious notes and followed the spaced interval formula. A month later, by golly, I remember virtually all of the material. And in case if you’re wondering, both talks were equally interesting to me–the difference was the reversal of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

So the bottom line here is if you want to remember what you learned from an interesting seminar or session, don’t take a “cram for the exam” approach when you want to use the info. That might have worked in college (although Waterloo University specifically advises against cramming, encouraging students to follow the aforementioned approach). Instead, invest the 20 minutes (in spaced-out intervals), so that a month later it’s all still there in the old noggin. Now that approach is really using your head.

Science has proven that reading can enhance your cognitive function, develop your language skills, and increase your attention span. Plus, not only does the act of reading train your brain for success, but you’ll also learn new things! The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, said, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

By: Scott Mautz

Source: Pocket

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Critics:

Dr. John N. Morris is the director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research. He believes there are three main guidelines you should follow when training your mind:

  1. Do Something Challenging: Whatever you do to train your brain, it should be challenging and take you beyond your comfort zone.
  2. Choose Complex Activities: Good brain training exercises should require you to practice complex thought processes, such as creative thinking and problem-solving.
  3. Practice Consistently: You know the saying: practice makes perfect! Dr. Morris says, “You can’t improve memory if you don’t work at it. The more time you devote to engaging your brain, the more it benefits.”
  4. If you’re looking for reading material, check out our guides covering 40 must-read books and the best books for entrepreneurs.
  5. Practice self-awareness. Whenever you feel low, check-in with yourself and try to identify the negative thought-loop at play. Perhaps you’re thinking something like, “who cares,” “I’ll never get this right,” “this won’t work,” or “what’s the point?” 
  6. Science has shown that mindfulness meditation helps engage new neural pathways in the brain. These pathways can improve self-observational skills and mental flexibility – two attributes that are crucial for success. What’s more, another study found that “brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators.”
  7. Brain Age Concentration Training is a brain training and mental fitness system for the Nintendo 3DS system.
  8. Queendom has thousands of personality tests and surveys. It also has an extensive collection of “brain tools”—including logic, verbal, spatial, and math puzzles; trivia quizzes; and aptitude tests
  9. Claiming to have the world’s largest collection of brain teasers, Braingle’s free website provides more than 15,000 puzzles, games, and other brain teasers as well as an online community of enthusiasts.

 

How Does The Brain Interpret Computer Languages

In the US, a 2016 Gallup poll found that the majority of schools want to start teaching code, with 66 percent of K-12 school principals thinking that computer science learning should be incorporated into other subjects. Most countries in Europe have added coding classes and computer science to their school curricula, with France and Spain introducing theirs in 2015. This new generation of coders is expected to boost the worldwide developer population from 23.9 million in 2019 to 28.7 million in 2024.

Despite all this effort, there’s still some confusion on how to teach coding. Is it more like a language, or more like math? Some new research may have settled this question by watching the brain’s activity while subjects read Python code.

Two schools on schooling

Right now, there are two schools of thought. The prevailing one is that coding is a type of language, with its own grammar rules and syntax that must be followed. After all, they’re called coding languages for a reason, right? This idea even has its own snazzy acronym: Coding as Another Language, or CAL. Others think that it’s a bit like learning the logic found in math; formulas and algorithms to create output from input. There’s even a free online course to teach you both coding and math at the same time.

Which approach is more effective? The debate has been around since coding was first taught in schools, but it looks like the language argument is now winning. Laws in Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia allow high school students to take computer science to fulfill their foreign language credits (the 2013 Texas law says this applies if the student has already taken a foreign language class and appears unlikely to advance).

The debate holds a special interest for neuroscientists; since computer programming has only been around for a few decades, the brain has not evolved any special region to handle it. It must be repurposing a region of the brain normally used for something else.

So late last year, neuroscientists in MIT tried to see what parts of the brain people use when dealing with computer programming. “The ability to interpret computer code is a remarkable cognitive skill that bears parallels to diverse cognitive domains, including general executive functions, math, logic, and language,” they wrote.

Since coding can be learned as an adult, they figured it must rely on some pre-existing cognitive system in our brains. Two brain systems seemed like likely candidates: either the brain’s language system, or the system that tackles complex cognitive tasks such as solving math problems or a crossword. The latter is known as the “multiple demand network.”

Coding on the brain

In their experiment, researchers asked participants already proficient at coding to lie in an fMRI machine to measure their brain activity. They were then asked to read a coding problem and asked to predict the output.The two coding languages used in the study are known for their “readability”—Python and ScratchJr. The latter was specifically developed for children and is symbol-based so that children who have not yet learned to read can still use it.

The main task involved giving participants a person’s height and weight and asking them to calculate a person’s BMI. This problem was either presented as Python-style code or as a normal sentence. The same method was done for ScratchJr, but participants were asked to track the position of a kitten as it walked and jumped.

Control tasks involved memorizing a sequence of squares on a grid (to activate participants’ multiple demand system) and reading one normal and one nonsense sentence (to activate their language system). Their results showed that the language part of the brain responded weakly when reading code (the paper’s authors think this might be because there was no speaking/listening involved). Instead, these tasks were mostly handled by the multiple demand network.

The multiple demand network is spread across the frontal and parietal (top) lobes of our brain, and it’s responsible for intense mental tasks—the parts of our lives that make us think hard. The network can be roughly split between the left part (responsible for logic) and the right (more suited to abstract thinking). The MIT researchers found that reading Python code appears to activate both the left and right sides of the multiple demand network, and ScratchJr activated the right side slightly more than the left.

“We found that the language system does not respond consistently during code comprehension in spite of numerous similarities between code and natural languages,” they write.Interestingly, code-solving activated parts of the multiple-demand network that are not activated when solving math problems. So the brain doesn’t tackle it as language or logic—it appears to be its own thing.

The distinct process involved in interpreting computer code was backed up by an experiment done by Japanese neuroscientists last year. This work showed snippets of code to novice, experienced, and expert programmers while they lay in an fMRI. The participants were asked to categorize them into one of four types of algorithms. As expected, the programmers with higher skills were better at categorizing the snippets. But the researchers also found that activity in brain regions associated with natural language processing, episodic memory retrieval, and attention control also strengthened with the skill level of the programmer.

So while coding may not be as similar to languages as we had thought, it looks like both benefit from starting young.

By: Fintan Burke

Fintan is a freelance science journalist based in Hamburg, Germany. He has also written for The Irish Times, Horizon Magazine, and SciDev.net and covers European science policy, biology, health and bioethics.

Source: https://arstechnica.com

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Scientists Show What Loneliness Looks Like In The Brain

This holiday season will be a lonely one for many people as social distancing due to COVID-19 continues, and it is important to understand how isolation affects our health. A new study shows a sort of signature in the brains of lonely people that make them distinct in fundamental ways, based on variations in the volume of different brain regions as well as based on how those regions communicate with one another across brain networks.

A team of researchers examined the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, genetics and psychological self-assessments of approximately 40,000 middle-aged and older adults who volunteered to have their information included in the UK Biobank: an open-access database available to health scientists around the world. They then compared the MRI data of participants who reported often feeling lonely with those who did not.

The researchers found several differences in the brains of lonely people. These brain manifestations were centered on what is called the default network: a set of brain regions involved in inner thoughts such as reminiscing, future planning, imagining and thinking about others.

Researchers found the default networks of lonely people were more strongly wired together and surprisingly, their grey matter volume in regions of the default network was greater. Loneliness also correlated with differences in the fornix: a bundle of nerve fibers that carries signals from the hippocampus to the default network. In lonely people, the structure of this fibre tract was better preserved.

We use the default network when remembering the past, envisioning the future or thinking about a hypothetical present. The fact the structure and function of this network is positively associated with loneliness may be because lonely people are more likely to use imagination, memories of the past or hopes for the future to overcome their social isolation.

“In the absence of desired social experiences, lonely individuals may be biased towards internally-directed thoughts such as reminiscing or imagining social experiences. We know these cognitive abilities are mediated by the default network brain regions,” says Nathan Spreng from The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) of McGill University, and the study’s lead author. “So this heightened focus on self-reflection, and possibly imagined social experiences, would naturally engage the memory-based functions of the default network.”

Loneliness is increasingly being recognized as a major health problem, and previous studies have shown older people who experience loneliness have a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Understanding how loneliness manifests itself in the brain could be key to preventing neurological disease and developing better treatments.

“We are just beginning to understand the impact of loneliness on the brain. Expanding our knowledge in this area will help us to better appreciate the urgency of reducing loneliness in today’s society,” says Danilo Bzdok, a researcher at The Neuro and the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, and the study’s senior author.

This study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Dec. 15, 2020. It was partially funded by a grant to Spreng and Bzdok from the U.S. National Institute on Aging.


Story Source:

Materials provided by McGill University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. Nathan Spreng, Emile Dimas, Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo, Alain Dagher, Philipp Koellinger, Gideon Nave, Anthony Ong, Julius M. Kernbach, Thomas V. Wiecki, Tian Ge, Yue Li, Avram J. Holmes, B. T. Thomas Yeo, Gary R. Turner, Robin I. M. Dunbar, Danilo Bzdok. The default network of the human brain is associated with perceived social isolation. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20039-w

Cite This Page:

McGill University. “Scientists show what loneliness looks like in the brain: Neural ‘signature’ may reflect how we respond to feelings of social isolation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201215082059.htm>.

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What Happens To The Brain When We Experience Nostalgia

The term “nostalgia” was coined by Swiss physician Johannes Hofer derived from two Greek words, “nostos” and “algos” — meaning “suffering” and “origins”.

Nostalgia, unlike screen memory, does not relate to a specific memory, but rather to an emotional state. This idealized emotional state is framed within a past era, and the yearning for the idealized emotional state manifests as an attempt to recreate that past era by reproducing activities performed then and by using symbolic representations of the past.

Memory is really a sort of networking and synthesis and abstraction of all these experiences of our life. It’s what makes us humanly unique. It’s our autobiography. So nostalgia is a sense of being able to contact and read the book again.

According to Joseph Ledoux (an eminent neuroscientist working on emotions, fear and anxiety) nostalgia has something to do with how memory and emotions are stored in the brain.

Concept of Flashbulb memory:

But when a memory is stored at a time of emotional arousal, the imprint is more powerful, possibly due to the neurotransmitters, that the brain secretes in that moment. As per LeDoux’s conjecture, the process of forming the mental imprint of an event may be closely linked to what is known as “flashbulb memory.

In 2007, NYU psychologist Elizabeth Phelps identified the brain circuitry involved in the creation of flashbulb memories. Her team took scans of people’s brains as they recalled the events of September 11, 2001, and saw that the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center, was lit up. Her work uncovered that the closer one was to the event, the stronger the recollection and the easier it was to retrieve.

To stockpile information into our brain, we rely on a critical structure called the hippocampus. Without it, we would be blank slates with no past. This C-shaped region of the brain is highly connected to the emotional region of the brain, the amygdala.

During an experience these two structures work together and combine information from the different senses. Consequently, an experience becomes intertwined with feelings.

So when a strongly emotional event, say, like our fifth birthday party, occurs, the amygdala is helping us perceive that emotional content and our hippocampus is processing the events that occurred—the cake, the presents and all these specific details of things that compose that birthday night. We probably don’t remember much details anymore but are just nostalgic about what a terrific time we had.

Neuroimaging Studies:

fMRI studies have examined the neural substrates of listening to music that
evokes emotions such as tenderness, peacefulness and nostalgia, showing that experiencing these high valence/low arousal emotions activates various brain regions, including:

  1. Hippocampus (HPC)
  2. Parahippocampus
  3. Ventral striatum (VS)
  4. Ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC)
  5. Subgenual/rostral anterior cingulate cortex
  6. Somatosensory cortex
  7. Medial motor cortex
  8. Precuneus
  9. Medial orbitofrontal cortex

The music that many of us loved as a teenager means more to us than ever—but with each passing year, the new songs on the chartlist sound like noisy nonsense.

So, why do the songs that we heard when we were teenagers sound sweeter than anything we listen to as an adult?

This is because these songs hold disproportionate power over our emotions.

Memories are meaningless without emotion—and aside from love and drugs, nothing spurs an emotional reaction like music. Brain imaging studies show that our favorite songs stimulate the brain’s pleasure circuit (Nucleus Accumbens, Ventral Tegmental Area etc), which releases an influx of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals that make us feel good. The more we like a song, the more we get treated to neurochemical bliss, flooding our brains with some of the same neurotransmitters that cocaine chases after.

Olfactory Nostalgia:

The smell of chlorine wafts through the air. Suddenly, we recall childhood summers spent in a swimming pool. Or maybe it’s a whiff of apple pie, or the scent of the same perfume our mom used to wear. Our noses have a way of sniffing out nostalgia.

After a smell enters the nose, it travels through the cranial nerve through the olfactory bulb, which helps the brain process smells. The olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system, the emotional center of the brain. As a member of the limbic system, the olfactory bulb can easily access the amygdala, which plays a role in emotional memories. Olfactory bulb has a strong input into the amygdala, which process emotions. The kind of memories that it evokes are good and they are more powerful. This close relationship between the olfactory bulb and the amygdala is one of the reason odors cause a spark of nostalgia.

References:

  1. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access published June 8, 2015
  2. How the brain stores sad, glad and bittersweet recollections December 25, 2014 by Luba Ostashevsky
  3. Neuron 84, 1–10, November 19, 2014 ª2014 Elsevier Inc
  4. Smells like nostalgia: Why do scents bring back memories? by Meghan Holohan

3K viewsView 9 UpvotersRelated QuestionsMore Answers BelowWhat combination of chemicals are released in the brain when one feels nostalgic? Why do I feel nostalgic weeks before something bad happens? How exactly does the feeling of nostalgia work? How long does it take for something to trigger that specific feeling in our brain? Why do I feel nostalgic about my childhood even if I am just 14? I’m 17 yet feel nostalgia for when I was 15 and 16; is getting nostalgic this young and for such recent times normal, and what can I do about it?

Ambrose Husser, 10 years US Army. 6 years u.s. lifeguard. Amateur biologist in physicist Answered April 30, 2019 · Author has 55 answers and 7.8K answer views

We define ourselves in large part with our past experiences. So when we look at our past we look at what makes us who we are. The future often brings fourth a feeling of fear and apprehension.

You must always be careful to never dwell on the past.This will lead to depression and never fixate on the future or you will live in stress fear and apprehension.

What combination of chemicals are released in the brain when one feels nostalgic? Why do I feel nostalgic weeks before something bad happens? How exactly does the feeling of nostalgia work? How long does it take for something to trigger that specific feeling in our brain? Why do I feel nostalgic about my childhood even if I am just 14? I’m 17 yet feel nostalgia for when I was 15 and 16; is getting nostalgic this young and for such recent times normal, and what can I do about it? Why do we feel nostalgic? How can one fight nostalgia? Why do I constantly feel nostalgic? I feel like I’m wasting my life and it’s nearly over, but I’m 13. Do people like to feel nostalgic? What made you feel nostalgic recently? Why do I love the feeling of nostalgia? What do 1144 and 818 mean in a twin flame journey? What happens (scientifically) when you get heartbroken? What happens in the human brain after crying? Is it common for people to feel intense nostalgia through smell?

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What happens to the brain when it recalls good times. The first 1000 people to use the link will get a free trial of Skillshare Premium Membership: https://skl.sh/johnnyharris13 Check out Nathaniel Drew’s Video on Nostalgia: https://youtu.be/hHE1cJF3OZs I launched a Patreon. If you want to support my videos, head here: https://www.patreon.com/johnnyharris For anyone who likes smarter travel, Iz and I started a company: https://brighttrip.com/?ref=5 Subscribe to my channel: https://goo.gl/1U8Zy7 My Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnny.harris/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnnyHarris Tom Fox made the music for this video: https://tfbeats.com/ I also get music from Artlist: https://bit.ly/2XfAE6C And Music Bed http://share.mscbd.fm/johnnywharris Iz’s Channel: https://www.youtube.com/iz-harris We sell our drone prints: https://backdropstock.com/collections… And we send an email once a month with a Spotify playlist. Sign up if that sounds cool: https://www.izharris.com/newsletter Gear I use: https://www.izharris.com/gear-guide Camera: https://geni.us/xK9Al Favorite Lens: https://geni.us/VrAWNG Second Favorite Lens: https://geni.us/Hcgdrb Travel Tripod: https://geni.us/Sf0bA Drone: http://geni.us/glWJhq Johnny Harris is a filmmaker and journalist. He currently is based in Washington, DC, reporting on interesting trends and stories domestically and around the globe. Johnny’s visual style blends motion graphics with cinematic videography to create content that explains complex issues in relatable ways. He holds a BA in international relations from Brigham Young University and an MA in international peace and conflict resolution from American University. Vox: https://www.vox.com/authors/johnny-ha… Spotlight: http://byupoliticalscienceblog.com/20… XYNTEO Interview: https://xynteo.com/insights/latest/po… Bonnier Talk: https://vimeo.com/232416596 Neiman Lab: https://tinyurl.com/ybjbvb7h Emmy Nomination: https://tinyurl.com/y9gjgel2 Storytelling Tips: http://chase.be/blog/5-storytelling-t… Craig Adams Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4cS0… So Money Podcast: https://tinyurl.com/ycjbl4p5