View Full Version : Difficulty "consolidating" memory when studying

09-26-15, 03:57 AM
Hey guys, I've been browsing these forums for a while but just now finally made an account. I am in college now and have a slight problem that is kind of complicated, but maybe someone else here has a brain as chaotic as my own and would be able to offer some insight.

Background: I started going to Community college at 16 (I was homeschooled) but I struggled and ended up leaving with a 1.5 gpa. Since I was diagnosed a little over a year ago and started taking adderall (20mg) there has been a night and day difference. However, there are still quite a few kinks I'm working out and tricks I'm learning as time goes on.

I'm sure there's a proper term for this that I dont know, but I have a lot of trouble consolidating or assimilating information. The best way I can describe it is that it's like the parts of my brain that process different types of info don't communicate very well with each other. For instance, someone can describe what something looks like and I can recite what they say back to them but I can't picture it in my mind, or I can see something but not put into words what I'm seeing. Or my personal favorite; I can read something out loud perfectly even if it has long complicated words but when someone asks me something about what I just read, I can't remember wtf I just read and basically stand there like a deer in the headlights.

The worst is when it comes to more abstract things (like math, or scientific concepts like polarity); I can (usually) follow along, and it makes sense in my head but when I try to write it or talk about it I don't know how to put it into words. This also makes it incredibly difficult to remember math procedures or theories, because I don't really know how to store said memory.

The way I've been attempting to overcome this is by basically hitting it from every possible angle; If I need to remember something hard to grasp I'll read the definition, write the definition, say it out loud (and/or in my head), draw a picture of it if possible, relate it to things I already know, and then just try and connect all the dots in my head and hope it sticks.

I understand that to some extent this is just part of the game and some things are simply going to be harder to understand than others, but if anyone has any experience/insight on overcoming these problems I'd love to hear them. I'm trying to get good grades and still have some semblence of a life. :(

09-26-15, 07:57 AM
Hi there and welcome. I didnt not have the issues as severe as you do but they only way I was able to remember anything I studied was to write and rewrite my notes word for word, or out of the book over and over again. It was tedious but it was the only way studying worked for me, hope this helps.

09-26-15, 06:26 PM
I think in some people memory consolidation can possibly have "faulty wiring" that there is no way to actually fix. I have not studied it in depth, but I do know that memory consolidation is a process in itself, an object of specific study and research, not infallible, not automatic, and not fully understood even by the top researchers.

If you did have some kind of faulty wiring, there would almost always be a lot of ways to get around the problem. When the normal way of learning doesn't work, you just do abnormal ways. :)

A couple of things for which there is pretty convincing evidence:

Good quality sufficient sleep after learning is one of the things that allows memory consolidation to take place. Poor sleep or no sleep after a learning experience has definite links to forgetting.

Mental exhaustion or excessive stress during the learning experience can clearly prevent effective learning.

It can be hard to control, but for tests, if the environment while learning matches the environment while testing, scores are noticeably higher. Students who have to take their test in a different room at a different time of day have lower average scores than students who take the lessons and the test in the same room at the same time of day.

Not part of any studies I've read about, but probably just because I haven't read much at all - these are things I've found to help me:

Teach it to someone. It doesn't matter that much if they're serious about learning it, as long as they're willing to sit with you (or walk with you or whatever) for a while. It's best if they actually ask you some questions about it, but even if you're just telling them about it it can help.

Talk about it with someone who "knows it cold".

Talk about it with someone who's in the same situation as you - in the middle of learning it.

Record yourself saying it.

Write it over and over.

Visualize it happening.

Do something that requires you to make use of the thing you mean to learn. (I noticed this for the first time when my teacher in school introduced division of numbers, and I suddenly needed subtraction for something. Little dvdnvwls had to brush up his subtraction real quick. :) ) (Similar things might include ideas like "there's no better inspiration for improving your tennis serve than losing at tennis"... etc.)

People learn differently. People's background knowledge (what you already knew in life before you showed up to class) is different. If you ever have a hunch like "I think I could learn this material better if I..." - then make it happen. Try out whatever seems to you like it might work.

09-28-15, 05:39 AM
I have all these problems as well and I think as you said the best is to attack it from every angle.

I especially like the idea about drawing diagrams or pictures especially when what you have learnt is not in picture form as this means that you definitely need to understand rather than just memorise it. Similarly you could do it vice versa as well, write out an explanation for a picture that you've seen.

Another thing that helps me is to learn more background knowledge or read a bit about related topics that I can anchor a memory to..or put it in context to something else that I know. This can be time-consuming but it does help.

And yes, trying to explain it to someone else (or even just yourself) usually helps as well.

11-26-15, 03:48 PM
My memory consolidation has gotten worse over the years, especially if I am particularly inactive in studying or actively using my brain for difficult tasks. This is especially frustrating when I am stressed out. I have a great capacity for understanding information, but when I am experiencing a streak of stressors I will not be able to recollate half of it. I recently when back on Adderall in an effort to alleviate some of this.