Study skills to improve memory

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

To do well in exams, students need to study material and retrieve this material at the time of exams.

This post discusses a strategy to quickly improve memory followed by other strategies to improve memory.

A small study of 36 healthy young adults conducted by Soya and colleagues, found immediate improvements in memory after just 10 minutes of low-intensity pedaling on a stationary bike (1,3).

How intense and what other type of exercise could be helpful?

A quick, light workout—which they liken in intensity to yoga or tai chi or 30% of each person’s maximum rate of oxygen consumption during exercise—was associated with heightened activity in the brain’s hippocampus, which helps us remember facts and events (1,3).

Earlier studies by Soya et.al. in rodents that found increased activity in the hippocampus and improved performance on tests of spatial memory after a light-intensity run on a controlled treadmill and more intense exercise didn’t offer the same memory boost (2,3).

How was memory assessed?

Memory was assessed using a memory test while researchers captured their brain activity by high resolution fMRI (1,3).

What were the results?

Participants made fewer errors on the image recognition test after they completed 10 minutes of very light exercise than when they only rested on the bike (1,3).

What did the brain scans show?

Brain scans of people during memory testing showed that improved memory performance was accompanied by increased activity and connectivity in the brain.

What are some caveats?

This is a small study and further research is needed.

The observed benefits of just 10 minutes of very light exercise were seen in healthy young adults (1,3).

It is not clear if longer exercise duration is more beneficial.

What else can you do to improve memory?

  • Get atleast 8 hours of sleep per night because sleep deprivation can impact many aspects of brain functioning.
  • Minimize distractions such as music or loud noises when studying, and study in an environment with minimal clutter even when you are not studying.
  • Eat healthy foods to fuel your brain.

Strategies to improve short term memory:

  1. Study frequently, in smaller chunks, and review material every few days to weeks.
  2. Entry and exit: review the hardest material first, and last.
  3. Create a meaning out of what you are learning, such as turning it into a story or a picture, linking the study material into something familiar, etc.
  4. Rearrange and combine material to make it easier to learn.
  5. Use mnemonics or memory tricks. Example, ROY G BIV stands for the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
  6. Turn studying into a game such as flash cards, give yourself a test that you make, word matching, quiz, and exams.
  7. To watch a video on this, go to the Dennis Learning Center: https://dennislearningcenter.osu.edu/short-term-memory/

Strategies to improve long term memory:

  1. Structure information into a map or pattern (schematizing).
  2. Study frequently, in chunks, and review material every few days to weeks.
  3. Turn studying into a game such as flash cards, give yourself a test that you make, word matching, quiz, and exams.
  4. Picking out relevant information (main ideas such as chapter/paragraph headings, 1st sentence of paragraph/page, bold/italicized items) that helps you remember the bigger chunks of information (abstracting).
  5. Add something new to the information to make it stick, such as writing the information in your own words, write questions, and own examples (elaboration).
  6. Re-organizing information into diagrams, charts, or other structures that make sense to you (organizing).
  7. To watch a video on this, go to the Dennis Learning Center: https://dennislearningcenter.osu.edu/long-term-memory/

Most importantly, invest in study skills by reading books, exploring online resources on study skills.

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Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References

  1. Rapid stimulation of human dentate gyrus function with acute mild exercise. Suwabe K, Byun K, Hyodo K, Reagh ZM, Roberts JM, Matsushita A, Saotome K, Ochi G, Fukuie T, Suzuki K, Sankai Y, Yassa MA, Soya H. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Sep 24. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Long-term mild exercise training enhances hippocampus-dependent memory in rats. Inoue K, Hanaoka Y, Nishijima T, Okamoto M, Chang H, Saito T, Soya H. Int J Sports Med. 2015 Apr;36(4):280-285.
  3. https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2018/10/02/study-suggests-light-exercise-helps-memory/

 

“Macho” Food and Mental Health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Food marketing to males can sometimes include “macho food” (1) messaging associated with foods high in calories, sodium, fats, processed grain, and sugar.  This can sometimes also include alcohol and nicotine products.  This is significant because food can play an important role in depression, which is a leading cause of suicide (2).

Previous research has looked at nutrition and depression among adults of various ages (3).

A recent study looked at nutrition and depression among college aged students (4).

What was the study?

Francis and colleagues studied 100 young adults (aged 17 to 35) with moderate-to-severe depression symptoms and poor diet were randomized to a dietary intervention or their usual diet (4).

What was the intervention? (4)

Intervention group were instructed to reduce their intake of processed foods and increase their intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy proteins, unsweetened dairy, olive oil, turmeric, and cinnamon (4).

What were the results?

– At 21 days, the intervention group had lower depression, anxiety, and stress scores (DASS) scores than the control group after controlling for baseline scores (4).

What are some caveats?

  • This is a small study that builds on previous studies on nutrition for depression (3).
  • According to these studies, foods that improved depression were NOT necessarily certain foods that are sometimes marketed as “macho” foods (1).
  • This is important because males account for about 75% of suicides in the United States (2), with depression being the leading cause of suicide.

According to the Center for Disease control, other health disparities experienced by men include (5):

  • Suicide (mentioned above)
  • Homicide
  • Binge drinking
  • Shorter lifespan
  • High blood pressure
  • Death by motor vehicle accidents

What is being done to address some of this?

Additional resources for depression:

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

 

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

 

References:

  1. http://nymag.com/betamale/2016/06/macho-food-marketing-is-killing-men.html
  2. https://us.movember.com/about/mental-health
  3. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/category/nutrition-depression/
  4. Francis HM, Stevenson RJ, Chambers JR, Gupta D, Newey B, Lim CK (2019) A brief diet intervention can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults – A randomised controlled trial. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0222768. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222768

 

Art activities and mental health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In a national survey of over 31 thousand college students, about 31% of college students report stress impacting their academics, followed by anxiety (25%), and depression (16%). (1).

Excessive stress can also lead to depression and anxiety (2).

A previous post looked at leisure activities and mental health.

Activities involving ART may also help with improving mental health which can then help with academics.

Are there examples of research on art activities and mental health?

  • Sandmire and colleagues showed that art making therapy can help with pre-test anxiety among undergraduate students, done upto 1 week before exams (3).
  • Abbing and colleagues showed that art making therapy can improve symptoms of anxiety among women diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder or panic disorder, with moderate to severe anxiety symptoms.  These were 10-12 sessions lasting 45-60 minutes (4).
  • In a study of 85 undergraduate students, free choice coloring, where they could color an image using any colors they wanted; showed an improvement in anxiety and mood (5).
  • In an experimental replication study, after inducing an anxious mood via a writing activity, participants were randomly assigned to three groups that colored either on a mandala design, on a plaid design, or on a blank paper (6). They found that coloring a mandala reduces anxiety to a significantly greater degree than coloring on a plaid design or coloring on a blank paper (6).

What are some caveats?

  • These are small studies in specific populations which does not tell us about all populations.
  • Further research in this area is needed.

Anything else that can help?

In addition to art, the following activities can also help with physical and emotional health:

  • Healthy lifestyle habits(healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy sleep habits, etc.) (7)
  • Avoiding harmful habits(smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc) (7)
  • This balance might vary from person to person.
  • Healthy ways of thinking and managing emotions through counseling and medications when appropriate.

Different people might benefit from different types of art. What type of art is best for you?

Campus resources:

Any other useful resources on campus:

Learn more about play and mental health:

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/22/mental-health-benefits-of-leisure-activities/

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2016/09/28/study-play-and-leisures-impact-on-mood-stress-and-wellbeing/

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2017. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.
  2. Khan S, Khan RA (2017) Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression. Ann Psychiatry Ment Health 5(1): 1091.
  3. David Alan Sandmire, Sarah Roberts Gorham, Nancy Elizabeth Rankin & David Robert Grimm (2012) The Influence of Art Making on Anxiety: A Pilot Study, Art Therapy, 29:2, 68-73, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.683748
  4. Abbing, A., Baars, E. W., de Sonneville, L., Ponstein, A. S., & Swaab, H. (2019). The Effectiveness of Art Therapy for Anxiety in Adult Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in psychology10, 1203. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01203
  5. Judy Eaton & Christine Tieber (2017) The Effects of Coloring on Anxiety, Mood, and Perseverance, Art Therapy, 34:1, 42-46, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1277113
  6. Renée van der Vennet & Susan Serice (2012) Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? A Replication Study, Art Therapy, 29:2, 87-92, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.680047
  7. Trainor, P. Delfabbro, S. Anderson, A. Winefield. Leisure activities and adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 33 (1) (2010), pp. 173-186.