18 techniques for faster learning
. the human brain
can store up to 280 quintillion (280,000,000,000,000,000,000) bits of memory
. everybody has
the potential to be a budding Mozart, Einstein or da
Vinci – we only employ a fraction of our intellect
. stimulating,
enriched environments can make you smarter
Tips on becoming smarter
. Read material that requires thinking – particularly biographies, news magazines
and newspapers. Read a non-fiction book for 20 minutes each day. Carry readin 16216n1315q g
material with you for when you can turn dead time into learning time, even if
only for a few minutes. Read the best of the mystery novels and try to keep one
step ahead of the detectives. Get a quality dictionary and read the meaning of
five new words a day, for 10 days. Before you start your reading prepare
yourself by having a session on the MindLab Orion.
. Write – research has shown geniuses
from history, such as Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson and Johann Sebastian Bach were compulsive scribblers. They all
recorded thoughts and feelings in diaries, poems, and letters to friends and
family, starting from an early age. Researchers have observed this tendency not
only in budding writers, but in generals, statesmen, and scientists.
. Learn to love maths – you don’t live in a vacuum, you
actually function in the real world and use maths everyday. You manage to keep
down a job, balance your bank account, use credit cards and pay taxes. Yet you
consider you’re hopeless at maths. Be consoled by the fact that a grasp of mathematics
has less to do with your intelligence than your eduction.
If you don’t understand the basic principles of maths, you were probably badly
taught somewhere along the way. The problem with many people is that after they
get past the age at which they should have learned something, they become
embarrassed if they haven’t and therefore back away from anything and
everything involved with it. They feel that they’ve been left too far behind
and that catching up is too big a task. Familiarity with mathematics will
expand your power, make your intellect stronger, and be of immense help in
using logic, which is itself of immense help in life. Like language,
mathematics is something agreed upon in communication. We all know what is
meant by the
. Stop watching TV – go and see a play,
attend a concert or visit the library. We’ve grown up, most of us, trained to
the artificially fast tempo of TV. Even the best of the children’s programming,
the most serious of the television documentaries, and the most professional
news programmes cover far too much in far too short a time. Television is
ingrained in most of us, we’ve grown up with it. BUT
if you are serious about wanting to think better, and especially if you want to
lengthen and strengthen your attention span, at least do it with a little
control. Get out the TV guide, look through it like a menu and form a conscious
decision about what you’re going to put into your mind this week. Then only
turn on the TV for those programmes. Debate a documentary programme, after
watching it with your partner. Or think through the arguments and see f you can
see other angles/perspectives. Snacking on junk programmes is as bad for your
mind as chips are for your body.
. Play games – like chess or scrabble or
other word board games. Any game that requires you to use
strategy, to project yourself into future time, to think ahead several moves,
and to try to outguess and out-think your opponent. Session 16,
Creativity Enhancement of the MindLab Orion is an
excellent session to use before beginning your game. Session 5, Athletic
Warm-up and Session 6, Maintaining Peak Competitive Posture are
also very good for strategy games.
. Set yourself goals – set a personal
development goal of gaining knowledge in a specific field on a particular
topic. Tell your friends and family so they can encourage you. Use learning
sessions on the MindLab Orion.
. Learn to mind map – a natural way to
organise information, according to the experts. The brainchild of Tony Buzan, a British brain expert, mind mapping proceeds from
the notion that the mind does not work in a linear, straightforward fashion. It
works in images, strings of associations, in tangents, loops and strange
juxtapositions. Buzan claims that, almost unnoticed, mind mapping activates your entire brain –
including the 90 percent that most of us neglect. It is designed to integrate
the right brain’s creativity with the left brain’s sense of order and attention
to detail. Use Session 17, Visualisation of your MindLab
Orion to get you in the mood.
. Be creative – everyone has creativity
inside them. Look at children – they can sing, dance, play musical instruments
and paint wonderful pictures! It doesn’t matter that you’ll never appear at the
Royal Albert Hall or exhibit at the Tate – just enjoy it! There are many
sessions on the MindLab Orion which will help you to
tap into your creativity and imagination.
. Find out what’s going on in the world – make
a conscious effort to learn more about a country or people you know nothing
about. Watch and listen to current affairs programmes on TV and radio. Read
world newspapers and newsmagazines. Newsagents will order them for you or
they’re available free at your library. Learn who the major statespeople
are in countries around the world and find out more
about different political systems.
. Go for a walk – Fresh air has a wonderful invigorating effect on
the mind as well as the body!
. Adopt the attitude that learning is a
life-long process – use it or lose it. Sign up for a course at your local
college, there are hundreds of courses to chose from.
There will probably be more than one you’ll want to do. It can be purely for
your own pleasure or for further qualifications. Whatever age you are there’s
always something for you. The thrill
of being with like-minded people is a joy in itself. Of course you don’t have
to join a college, there are lots of things you can do at home. Use the Learning sessions of the MindLab
Orion.
. Improve your problem solving skills –
start solving problems your way, which means the one most comfortable to you
and the way you usually handle things. For example are you a verbal person? If
you approach problems with words, then get out your dictionary and thesaurus
and bolster your arguments with the most convincing and appropriate words you
can find. Do you have a tendency to call upon a higher authority to bolster
your claims? Look through your encyclopedia and find
the pertinent articles to back up your argument with facts. Are you somebody
who makes lists and writes things down? Then draw up the neatest and most
concise list of arguments in your favour. Make sure you list them in descending
order of importance. The next step is to start solving the same problems in an
unfamiliar and uncharacteristic way to you.For
example, if you’re comfortable writing things down, take the verbal approach
instead. If you’re somebody who always cites authority, make a written list
without consulting anybody else, in books or otherwise. The purpose of these
exercises is not only to strengthen the insight mechanism you already have, but
to give you glimpses of other useful methods that might work for you.
. Ask questions – lots of them, take
nothing at face value. Don’t be a passenger in life. Don’t merely follow
somebody else’s directions. The directions may be excellent, but they’re not
yours. At some point, you’ve got to do it yourself, go off on your own and
under your own steam. When someone discusses something unfamiliar to you, ask
him or her to explain. The only silly question is the one you didn’t ask.
. Yogic breathing techniques – researchers
at the University of California, San Diego, have found that yogic breathing
techniques can actually improve the way our brains work. When you are working
with words and logic, your left brain tends to be more active; when you are
handling images or music, your right is more involved. In fact, we all have a
natural two-hour cycle of switching between the sides. However, one of the ways
to interrupt the cycle is to breathe through only one nostril – the left makes
your right brain dominant vice versa. So to fine-tune your brain for a
particular task, just close off the appropriate nostril and breathe strongly
through the other.
. Think positive – recent research
suggests that emotion and intelligence are intimately linked. Most
psychologists stress the importance of having a positive outlook, but that
depends on what you want to do. The upside of being down is that you have a
more realistic view of yourself and what is likely to happen. For example, too
much realism may be a serious drawback when you are pushing through a tricky
new project; on the other hand, if you’ve got to read something carefully and
make detailed assessment, wearing rose-coloured spectacles will make you fare
more prone to mistakes.
. Eat clever food – oily fish (tuna,
salmon, sardines). These contain essential fatty acids
which make up 70 per cent of the brain. Zinc (fish, meat and seeds) are used in
the metabolism of proteins. Serotonin and tryptophan (turkeys, bananas,
tomatoes and nettles – ouch). These are amino acids which transmit
messages across the brain. Two cups of coffee, surprisingly, makes people
calmer and able to concentrate more efficiently at tasks requiring hand-eye
co-ordination. Among the not very clever foods are food additives, fizzy
drinks, and too much sugar. These can cause hyperactivity, followed by a slump
in blood sugar levels, which leads to a loss of memory and a short attention
span. Alcohol, in excess, prevents the body absorbing vital nutrients. An extract
of the leaves of the Ginkgo Biloba tree increases the
blood flow to the brain and speeds up messages between nerve cells. Could it
boost your intelligence? Some researchers believe it will. The memory and
attention-span of people with Alzheimer’s has been greatly improved by using a
chemical called Acetyl-1-Carnitine, which is found in several common foods,
including milk. Other candidates include hydergine,
which comes from a fungus that grows on rye, and may stimulate cell growth. Vassopressin is a hormone diabetics
use and many claim it has startling effect on memory and thinking. Choline is a form of brain chemical that helps cells
communicate, and some believe it improves memory.
. Communicate better – which means
giving up slang and cliche ridden speech. Slang
merely takes the place of more accurately descriptive words, and if you don’t
allow them into your everyday speech, you’ve got to come up with the real words
to say what you mean. Cliches are tired shortcuts
around good vocabulary, taking the place of sharper, more
original, more intelligent speech. Since words are the building blocks of
thought, avoiding cliches in speech will force you to
avoid them in thinking. Having a powerful vocabulary is using the right word to
get the desired result. Long, unfamiliar words only confuse and frustrate
receivers of your messages.
How can the MindLab
Orion/Proteus/Little Calm Machine make you smarter?
Each
of us possess a thinking machine vastly superior to
our feeble conscious minds. There is no practical limit to the amount of
information you can put into your brain. You can take advantage of its vast
capacity to soak up knowledge by pursuing any topic that interests you. You can
learn anything you want. But what is it that gets in our way?
We are our own worst enemy sometimes.
One of the biggest drags on our intelligence and learning ability is what we
secretly believe about ourselves. We all have a little voice in our head that
says: “Don’t be too smart, no one will like you”. Or, “No one in our family has
ever been good at maths.” One of the first steps to improving your intelligence
is to get rid of all those negative thoughts implanted by parents, teachers and
schoolmates.
Learning is enhanced when you are in a
relaxed, alert state. Absorbing new information and concepts – and memorisation
too – becomes easier. The MindLab Orion has inbuilt
sessions which are excellent for preparing your mind to take in new
information.
Says
Robert Jefford from Gillingham: “The MindLab has also helped me
in my studies – I do lots of complex and exacting research, so I need a clear
and focused mind. My MindLab brings clarity and focus
to each project, so I can call information to mind quickly and assimilate new
knowledge with ease.”
Session 12 Quick Alertness Break
Lasts
10 minutes and is a perfect session to help you remain focused on your studies.
Designed to be used every 40 to 60 minutes. This
session will help you to better integrate the material during your study
period.
Session 13 Learning with Tapes
Lasts
35 minutes and is specifically designed for use with language tapes. It uses
the techniques pioneered by a Bulgarian researcher, called superlearning.
It involves developing a state of relaxed and focused concentration.
Session 14 Relax Before Exams or Pressure
Situations
Lasts
15 minutes and will leave you with a sense of calm, focus and confidence.
Concentration can be broken when you are feeling uneasy. Everyone has had the
experience of taking an exam, feeling pressured and forgetting material they easily
remember when the pressure is taken off. This session is ideal for use before
an exam or presentation.
Section 15 Concentration
Lasts
15 minutes and is designed to quickly brings you into
a calm, focused state. A relaxed body allows the mind more ability to be alert
and attentive. Your main focus when using this session should be to allow your
body to become as relaxed as possible while maintaining your alertness. Use
your breathing exercises to help you do that.
Section 16 Creativity Enhancement
Lasts
20 minutes and sweeps through a series of frequencies to help stimulate your
thought processes. Use it frequently for maximum benefit. Try this one for
several days in a row for help with problem solving. Try not to push for a
solution: try to allow one to come on its own. Sometimes letting go is the best
method.
Section 17 Visualisation
Lasts
20 minutes and to be used when you feel tired and want a session that moves
through a series of frequencies for stimulation and visualisation. If you are a
visual person, you will see all kinds of kaleidoscopic imagery. The session is
enjoyable with very pleasant after-effect.
Keeping up with the Mozarts,
the Einsteins and the da Vincis
Despite
all this awesome computing power in our heads, most of us are hard put to
multiply two-digit figures without resorting to a calculator, while even fewer
can manage the daily crossword puzzle or remember what they had for dinner last
Wednesday. Only the Mozarts, the Einsteins
and the da Vincis seem to
use their brainpower efficiently (and the evidence shows that even they employ
but a fraction of their intellect). So stupendous do their talents seem to the
rest of us that we look upon such geniuses much as the ancients did – as
divinely gifted beings endowed with what appear to be supernatural powers.
What have they got that we haven’t?
Well,
put it this way, there’s hope for us yet. Seldom do geniuses distinguish
themselves early in life. Many are labelled difficult, slow or even stupid. The
mathematician Henri Poincare did so poorly in an IQ
test that he was judged an ‘imbecile’. Thomas Edison, whose record 1,093
patents outstripped every inventor in history and transformed human life, was
notoriously slow in school.
“My father thought I was stupid,” Edison later recalled, “and I almost decided I must be a
dunce.”
As a child, Albert
Einstein, too, appeared deficient to his elders, partly due to his dyslexia,
which caused him great difficulty in speech and reading. His poor
language skills provoked his Greek teacher to tell him, “You will never amount
to anything.” Einstein was later expelled from high school and failed his
college entrance exam. After finally completing his bachelor’s degree, he
failed to attain either an academic appointment or a recommendation from his professors.
Forced to accept a lowly job in the Swiss patent office, Einstein in his
mid-twenties seemed destined for a life of mediocrity.
But in his twenty-sixth year – Eureka! Einstein
published his Special Theory of Relativity – which contained his famous
formula, E = mc2
– in the summer of 1905. Sixteen years later, he had won a Nobel prize and become an international celebrity. Even today his
bushy moustache and shock of silver hair remain the quintessential image of
“genius”.
Einstein’s brain is missing
When
Einstein died in 1955, the pathologist removed and kept his brain, without
permission from Einstein’s family. For the next 40 years he studied it under microscope
and dispensed small chunks to other researchers upon request. He wanted to
uncover the secret of Einstein’s genius.
He never did find anything. But in the
early 1980s, one of his colleagues, Marian Diamond a neuroanatomist
at the University
of California, announced
an amazing discovery – one that was to revolutionise ideas about learning and
genius.
Making a genius
Most
people assume that geniuses are born, not made. But Diamond has devoted her
career to creating genius in the laboratory. In one famous experiment, she
placed rats in a super-stimulating environment, complete with swings, ladders,
treadmills, and other toys. Other rats were confined to bare cages. Those rats
who lived in the high stimulus environment not only lived to the age of three
(the rate equivalent of 90 in a human), but their brains increased in size,
sprouting forests of new connections between nerve cells in the form of
dendrites and axons – spindly, branch-like structures that transmit electrical
signals from one nerve cell (or neutron) to another. The rats who lived in bare cages stagnated and died younger. Their
brains had fewer cellular connections.
In 1911, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of neuroanatomy,
had found that the number of interconnections between neurons (called synapses)
was the real measure of genius, far more crucial in determining brainpower than
the sheet number of neurons. Diamond’s
experiment showed that – at least in rats – the physical mechanism of genius
could be created through mental exercise.
But did this apply to people? Diamond
wanted to find out. She obtained sections of Einstein’s brain and examined
them. As she expected, she found an increased number of glial
cells in Einstein’s left parietal lobe – a kind of neurological switching
station that Diamond described as an “association area for other association
areas in the brain”. Glial cells act as a glue holding the other nerve cells together, and also help
transfer electrochemical signals between neurons. Diamond expected them because
she had also found high concentrations of glial cells
in the brains of her enriched rates. Their presence in Einstein’s brain
suggested that a similar enrichment process was at work.
Use it or lose it
Unlike
neurons – which do not reproduce after birth – glial
cells, axons, and dendrites can increase in number throughout life, depending
on how you use your brain. Diamond’s work suggested that the more we learn, the
more such connections are formed. Likewise, when we cease learning and our
minds stagnate, these connections shrivel and dwindle away.
The implication for educators is clear.
If Einstein’s brain worked anything like the brains of Diamond’s rats, it may
be possible to create new Einsteins by providing
sufficiently stimulating mental exercise.
Thankfully, we humans don’t have to fill
our homes with swings, ladder and treadmills. Einstein himself had some
thoughts on the subject. He believed that you could stimulate ingenious thought
by allowing your imagination to float freely, unrestrained by conventional
inhibitions.
Go with the flow and improve your
intelligence
You
are unlikely to be able to alter your God-given intelligence, but you can alter your crystallised
intelligence. It’s like anything else: use it or lose it. You need to do mental
gymnastics. Dr Michael Howe, a psychologist from ExeterUniversity
and the author of Hot House Children, cautions:
‘You have to put in the work, even those who people say are natural geniuses –
that’s not true, they work at their particular skill all the time.’
Motivation is central to this. Only
those who are really motivated apply themselves hard mentally. Motivation is
part of cognitive intelligence, and may determine the quality and quantity of
mental capacity, according to Professor Sternberg:
‘Studies show that adults who use their intelligence actively do increase in
intelligence.’
Light and sound devices
These
devices remove the everyday mind-chatter and clear your mind to whatever task
lies ahead, whether it be sleep, relaxation and
meditation, learning or physical activity. Fully alert and lucid your brain is
now functioning far more effectively than it was before.
Your memory – your ability both to
memorise new information and to recall information you have already learned –
has increased dramatically. Your ability to think creatively, to solve
problems, has expanded. The speed with which your brain cells pass messages
among themselves has increased. In fact, many of your brain cells have actually
grown – a microscopic examination would show that the brain cells have
developed more dendrites (remember, the rats and Einstein) You
are more intelligent than you were a half hour before.
Check
out the light and sound devices at the LifeTools site
at: http://www.lifetools.com