Thursday 15 January 2015

How to Use Your Brain: Life Long Learning

Learning and Memory

Graffiti by Paula Delfin
'Learning is how you acquire new information about the world, and memory is how you store that information over time,' according to Eric Kandel, of the Dana Institute in Staying Sharp: Learning as We Age, 'There is no memory without learning, but there is learning without memory, you can learn things and forget them immediately' (p.5). The same way you can remember a phone number just long enough to key it in.

Our thoughts, senses and actions are 'patterns of electrical and chemical signals travelling between nerve cells' in our brains (p.6). To make learning and memories stick we rehearse and reinforce the use of certain patterns. The more we repeatedly use certain pathways the more automatic the retrieval of the data at the end.

Short term memory only hold 7 (plus or minus 2) items according to Miller (1956) so if we want learning to transfer to the long term memory we have to do something about it.


How to Keep  Sharp* 

Stimulating Mental Exercise (p.8)
Continued Learning (p.8)
Self Efficacy (p.8)
Social Interaction (p.8)
Aerobic Exercise (p. 10-11)
Stay Positive (p. 19-20)
Manage Stress (*p.20) 


Learning Changes the Brain*

The brain is moulded by learning. It evolves physically creating new and strengthening old connections and cells.

'About a fifth of 70-year-olds perform as well on cognitive tests as 20-year-olds do on average'
 (Dana Institute, p.12).

Minding Your Memory*

  1. Pay Attention
  2. Stay Focused
  3. Repeat it
  4. Write it down
  5. Visualise it
  6. Make associations
  7. Stay organised
  8. Plan and Prioritise (p. 14)


8 Healthy Habits that Boost Your Brain (according to Reader's Digest)

  • Learn New Things (boosts memory)
  • Play Games (brain teasers with planning and strategising to improve memory)
  • Manage Stress (cortisol created can damage short term memory)
  • Include Resveratrol in Diet (found in blueberries, red wine & dark chocolate)
  • Cut Down on Sugar (lower sugar levels = better performance)
  • Sleep (helps memory)
  • Taking ibuprofen may help (for inflammation)
  • Exercise (some helps verbal and some spatial skills)


Other Useful Articles/Links:

 How to Improve Your Memory by


Miller, G. (1956) 'The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information', The Psychological Review, 63, 81-97

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