First, some definitions:
“synaptic plasticity”, defined:
It refers to an increase in new neural connections, and shows that new learning has taken place.
Neurogenesis: The creation of new neurons, which prepares your brain for learning.
Dopamine: You can think of it as the neurotransmitter that turns on your reward circuitry. You can think of dopamine as the “Gotta have it!” neurochemical, whatever “it” is. It’s the “craving” signal. Dopamine has many wonderful functions in the brain: reward, motivation, pleasure, focus and attention- just to name a few.
“People commonly think of dopamine as a happy transmitter, or a pleasure transmitter, but more accurately it’s a learning transmitter,” says Hitoshi Morikawa, a neurobiologist.
Now:Here are three new experimental “learning enhancement” techniques for you to try out.
These are ‘amateurishly experimental’ so you can try things out one by one and stick with practising the ones that
seem to enhance your learning.
I have only included those techniques which I believe intuitively works for me.
Sex and alcohol: (consumption in regular dosages should theoretically help neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity)
Sex makes you smarter (Search for ‘sex makes you smarter’ to see several articles on the topic)
Sex makes you smarter via changes in synaptic strength following the act.
Acute sexual experience increased circulating corticosterone levels and the number of new neurons in the
hippocampus. Chronic sexual experience no longer produced an increase in corticosterone levels but continued to promote adult neurogenesis and stimulate the growth of dendritic spines and dendritic architecture.
Studies find alcohol can help the brain remember. Regular and controlled consumption of alcohol can improve learning.
Simple kinesthetic movements such as writing (the act of handling the pen on paper) can improve
cortisonal stimulation and thus lead to an enhancement in learning and retainment. An example would be a student using
hand movement to find out the sum of 1/2 plus 3/4- move hands wider one-half width, then three-quarters width,
and so on. The basic idea is: Add some kind of body movement every now and then when you are
learning things anew. Go open/close windows, type out an SMS, doodle, even silly movements
like tapping on the table with hands, or pulverizing a blob of cotton or thinking putty (thinkingputty.com)
should help. Move some lego blocks, try quadra-clicking your mouse when the computer is off,
try shaping paper balls in odd shapes, use scissors to cut odd shapes from a white A4 paper,
try rearranging your vertical stack of books on the table, etc.
If you have a bookcase, mark (with pencils of course, so you can erase them later),
four books, and call them 1,2,3,4 or A,B,C,D. Then when you come across something in your learning
that you think you may forget, get up and re-arrange those books as D,C,B,A or D-A-B-C, go outside
and take a walk for a minute and think about what you just did. This may help you recall
what you were afraid of forgetting.
The memory pyramid – new words/factoids as pegs
Associate new words (even made up ones like ‘eliptonic’ or ‘clodpate’ or ‘Cloudy @ Pete’s'-
you can get ideas for these from wordnik.com – you are only looking for words that dont have a meaning assigned as of yet
-so your brain starts to try to infer meaning from the way the word sounds-you need this
‘fresh’ neuronal connection to be made) with things you are trying to memorize. The new words
should be able to ‘peg’ themselves with whatever it is that you are trying hard to memorize.
Imagine a SMS service which sends you new metaphorical word combinations (visceralization in intervals) (say 30-40 minute intervals) like ‘EclecticDaffodil’ ‘MusioMatcho’ (2 concepts in same word),
‘CarSwimSodium’ (3 concepts) etc. You are only interested in 2-3 concepts in the same ‘word’, beyond that,
it could get messy.
Would you be able to better recall that you wrote down ‘CarSwimSodium’ by the margins of the text
that explains ‘Solvays method’? (this technique is called visceralization and is used by sites like
mnemonicidictionary.com – imagine a car swimming in a pool of chlorine – Solvays method is a method
of producing sodium carbonate).
Imagine trying to imbibe the meaning of the word ‘Stodgy’ – imagine ‘a stark that is edgy because it finds
itself unimaginative and dull’. Now add the visual, kinesthetic and auditory elements to this story
to facilitate better recall. Imagine the stark saying ‘Captain Spark’ in a voice that sounds like a cat, and imagine
red polka dots painted on the stark.
Now try to memorize what you are learning. You are actually pushing your neurons to forge new connections to make room for the concept you are trying to memorize.
(More like this: imagine filling your bath tub with blue and yellow golf balls, Imagine your coffee cup suddenly turning blue in colour, Imagine your clock suddenly transposing the positions of 6 and 3 clock points, imagine them serving blue potato chips in Chipotle, imagine the walls of your Walgreens outlet being painted green etc. To summarize, you should be trying to visualize something you already have a mental picture about, and must be something odd. If you are still not able to recall the stuff you are trying to memorize, add auditory and kinesthetic elements to the ‘story’ until you do remember/recall etc)
Also refer other pertinent pages from across the web:
How to read in college
77 ways to learn faster, deeper and better
Buzan Study Skills handbook
Study skills courses for students
Free online modules on learning about learning from All kinds of Minds
Learning and information skills – from MindTools
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