6 Important Things You Should Know About How Your Brain Learns
Do you know how your brain is designed to learn? This isn’t a question you get asked everyday, and it’s certainly not a topic that you lazily find yourself thinking about either. But knowing how your brain learns can help you better optimize what you learn and how.
Think of your grade boost! Here are 6 important things you should know about how your brain learns:
#1 Learning Builds On Prior Knowledge
The human brain has special cells called neurons, which are composed of several parts, including brain fibers known as dendrites. As you learn, these fibers grow, which helps them connect your brain cells by forming contact points called synapses. The more connections are made, the more information can be stored in your brain.
In other words, if you want to learn more, and be smarter, than you better hit the books. The more you learn, the more your brain becomes capable of learning more material.
#2 The Type of Practice You Do Impacts What You Learn
Those brain fibers we just discussed? Well, they relate to what you’re practicing. For instance, say you’re mastering the art of cooking. The more you do it, the better you get, because the more connections are formed. And with practice, they get bigger, grow stronger, and develop a fatty layer on top. You want that, because it proves you’re a pro at whatever, in this case cooking. That’s why it’s not enough to listen to a podcast about it, or sit in a lecture. It’s only going to be mastered by doing it yourself.
#3 It Really Does Learn Better Visually
There’s always arguments about what the better way to learn is. Some claim they learn better visually, others say they retain information better by reading. But the fact is that your brain is directly related to processing visual information, that’s why it’s connected to your eyes. It’s how your brain takes in the world at large, processes information, gauges people’s body language, etc.
In face, neurons devoted to visual processing take up 30% of the cortex. That’s intense! So does this mean we should stop reading or listening to lectures? No, it means that we learn in a variety of ways, but best is visual, that’s what we’re designed to primarily do.
#4 Big Picture Vs. the Details
Think about all of the information that your brain has to retain in a day. Research for a term paper, information for a job, personal information, reminders for social events, details about someone’s life, information about your partner, your pets, etc. It’s a lot to cram into your brain, which is why your brain tends to do something: remember the big picture.
It’s why sometimes we find ourselves asking “What was that thing? What did I need to get done again?”
This is your brain’s way of avoiding stress and overwhelming amounts of information. This is why the best learning is done by working with your brain. Remember it learns better when it already has some information to relate it to? If you remember the gist of something, next time you read, hear about it, or see if, you can learn more about it. That’s why you shouldn’t cram for a test: you would learn better by spreading learning throughout the week before.
#5 Sleep Debt
It’s true, your brain gets in a bit of a fog when you’re sleep deprived. It significantly reduces your ability to learn new information, because it’s having to work harder to just perform basic functions. It’s why so many times we forget things when we’re tired. Like our keys or memo notes we would have otherwise been conscious about.
The more effort your brain needs to put into performing basic functions, the less it can efficiently learn.
#6 We Learn the Best While Teaching Others
Wait, what? Yes! When you teach something, you’re breaking it all down into portions, you’re explaining in detail, you’re going into the specifics in a very paced out manner. But more than that, you’re reinstating information and helping others to memorize it, which in turn, has the same effect on you.
So when you teach something, you’re keeping that information fresh in your mind, more so than if you were just learning something for an exam and then never using that information again.