Use it or lose it! Revision and neural pathways.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change its structure in response to learning new skills, and practice of old ones.  So how does this relate to students and exam revision? Simple – pathways between neurons can be strengthened over time and with repeated actions.  Students should start revising early, and remember that simple repetition – practising retrieving a memory over and over again – is the best form of consolidating the pattern and increasing the neural connections.

Students should also try and associate the course content with emotion: emotionally positive memories contain more contextual details (which in turn, helps memory) and it’s the emotional arousal, not the importance of the information, that helps memory.

So interactive quizzes, short clips of film, debate and discussion are all helpful ways to remember material. Moving from room to room, or going out for a walk while listening to material through headphones can help with retention.

Mindfulness training can help to focus attention and increase memory. It also helps students to relax during the exam period. Studies have been performed that demonstrate neuroplasticity during and after meditation.

Finally, here is a fascinating talk by Michael Merzenich, on brain plasticity.

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