When you think about it, how our brains learn really is amazing. Responsible for every function in our body, our brains do everything from memorizing complicated math equations to controlling functions in your body to learning how to cook the perfect bowel of ramen.
When it comes to how our brains learn, all brains function in the same general way, regardless of people’s learning preferences. Here are the main ways in which our brains learn and remember:
Building on Prior Knowledge
Your brain is made up of neurons, which are special cells that contain several parts, one of which is dendrites. Dendrites are brain fibers that grow as you learn, and connect your brain cells together at contact points called synapses. The more these dendrites grow, the more brain cells connect and the more information can be stored in your brain.
Because these dendrites can only grow from existing ones, your brain can only learn by building upon information you already have. This is why it is essential to understand the foundation of a subject before delving into learning the more complicated aspects of it, and achieve higher-level learning.
Practice Makes Perfect
There’s a reason why musicians, athletes, and other people learning new skills need to practice constantly to perfect their ability. Your brain needs constant repetition of your new skills in order to create stronger, faster connections. When you are constantly repeating your skill over and over again, the dendrites actually become thicker and stronger, making up a large part of how our brains learn. Practice enough and the dendrite will even form a protective, fatty layer around them. Practice even more and the brain fibers will form double connection to another. When this happens, information travels faster to and from certain parts of your brain, and the fatty coating quickens your brains capability to process information. So, in order to solidify information and skills into your brain, you need to continually practice.
Practice the Right Way
Not only does the frequency of which you practice impact your learning, but also the way you practice has a direct impact on learning new information. Remember that your brain grows fibers that relate to what are practicing, so if you are not practicing your skills the right way, your brain will not remember them correctly. For example, if you are learning something hands-on, like calculus, the only way for your brain to truly learn is to perform practice problems. If you just read about the theories, your brain will not pick up the information the right way.
Limits with your Working Memory
The part of your brain that allows information to be stored and manipulated for a short amount of time is called your working memory. For example, when you are trying to calculate a tip while out at dinner and you are relying on mental math, you are using your working memory. Scientists and researchers think that the limit for your working memory capacity is about five to six items, although it varies from person to person. However, you can increase your brain’s working memory by taking proper care of your body and by grouping items together before memorizing them.
Sleep and your Brain
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep every night is imperative for our health. It is also extremely important for your brain’s health to routinely get an adequate amount of sleep. Without, your brain will not be able to learn and function properly. In addition to having a short attention span, a lack of sleep also dramatically reduces your brain’s ability to learn new information. In order to learn and keep your brain healthy, prioritize getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
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