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Mentalrobics™

You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!

Procedural memory is the memory that involves the learning of a skill. If you learn to knit a sweater, then you are using your procedural memory. This type of memory is often used without thinking about it. For example, if you have learned how to ride a bike, you no longer have to consciously think about pedaling; your body just does it. Procedural memory is very long lasting. Once we learn something in this way, it is very difficult to unlearn it. Hence the phrase, "It's like riding a bike."

Some evidence seems to show that the cerebellum and basal ganglia are the parts of the brain that are primarily responsible for this type of memory and that the hippocampus has little involvement. This may be why people with Alzheimer's Disease rarely lose their procedural memory.

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The cerebellum is a small section of the brain that sits in back, next to where the spinal cord attaches to the brain. Although the cerebellum constitutes only about 10% of the brain by volume, it contains nearly 80% of the brain's neurons. This part of the brain is especially important for the integration of sensory perception and motor output. The cerebellum monitors the position of the body and communicates with the motor cortex to fine-tune the signals sent to the muscles. People who have damage to their cerebellum show problems with coordination and movement. The cerebellum is also important for the cognitive functions of attention, language, music and other sensory tasks.

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Naturally, people pay more attention to the things that interest them. If you like sports, you are going to remember teams and stats much more readily than someone who is not interested in sports. There are two ways to use this fact to your advantage when you need to remember something that is not interesting.

One way is to try to make the material more meaningful by looking for ways that it is similar to something that you enjoy.

Another way is to use rewards and punishments. For example, if you can recall 10 items from your flashcards or study for a full hour, you could reward yourself with a study break and a piece of candy. Some people may give themselves the reward even if they fail the task, so if you have trouble being honest with yourself ask someone to dispense the rewards for you.

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Many students study in bed before going to sleep. They may also study in bed at other times because it is a comfortable place. This should be avoided because it can interfere with good sleep. If you study in bed, then studying will become associated with your bed, and whenever you get into bed your mind will think about studying. An active mind can cause difficulty in falling to sleep, and sleep is very important, especially for students who rarely get an adequate amount of it. Additionally, there is not enough time for material that is learned immediately before going to sleep to sink into our minds; it is often forgotten by the time we wake up.

Another possibility is that sleep might become associated with studying. If this happens, whenever you sat down to study, regardless of the time or place, your mind will start to get sleepy. Obviously, this would limit the effectiveness of your studying!

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If you find that you cannot remember the answer to a question that you know you studied, try to imagine the place where you learned it. If you studied the material in the library, imagine the library. Try to recreate the entire context of where and how you learned the material: visualize the book, even the page where you found the material. Were there any diagrams on that page? What time of day were you studying the material?

Since the mind connects information in all sorts of ways, the contextual cues will give you a better chance at recalling what you learned.

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