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Significant learning: How do we internalize information?

What is significant learning? Learning is an essential part of our lives. We need to constantly acquire new knowledge and put it into practice in order to adapt to the environment. Sometimes it is not enough to retain long lists of data, we must internalize them. Ausubel’s significant learning theory explains how we integrate information into our brain. In this article, we will give you tips on how to learn significantly.

Significant Learning

Significant learning: Definition and characteristics

What is significant learning? To answer this question, we must be clear about what “learning” means. This term does not only involve the knowledge we are taught at school. It involves any lasting changes that we may observe in our behavior or that take place in our minds. Learning is essential in every area of our lives. Understanding and communicating the basics is the key to progress.

Psychologists and other professionals try to develop learning theories to explain how the brain learns. There are several proposals that address this issue from different angles. At present, an attempt is being made to understand this process through brain-based learning. Answers must be sought to provide future generations with better education.

In this article, we will talk about significant learning, which was proposed by the American psychologist David Ausubel. This author is one of the greatest exponents of constructivism. This perspective is based on each person building their own world through their own experiences. Piaget is also one of its most prominent exponents, which profoundly influenced Ausubel.

Ausubel’s significant learning theory states that we add and adapt the new information to our previous knowledge. It is a conscious process. Significant learning is an active process in which the subject is the protagonist.

This type of learning contrasts with rote learning, which is a more passive procedure. This constructivist theory contrasts with other proposals that focus on external influences.

Significant Learning: What do we need?

It is imperative that we have:

  • A cognitive structure: The existing basis with which the latest data interact is of great importance. It is made of the ideas we have, how they relate to each other and their degree of clarity.
  • New materials to learn: They need to be related to our previous knowledge. If it is difficult for us to find a link, we must make an effort to achieve a link that unites the new and previous concepts.
  • Willpower: The most important thing is the willingness of the person to form and structure knowledge. We are in charge of organizing the information in our brain.

Significant learning: Types and examples

Significant learning is used throughout our lives. Learning as machines can help us in specific cases like knowing our telephone number, our ID card or reciting a poem.

If we are interested in a topic, we will have to investigate the subject and retain it in a deeper and more lasting way. In fact, even if we don’t want to be experts, the results will improve if we learn significantly.

1. Feature learning

It is the most basic type of learning. From it comes the others. It consists of connecting meanings with certain notions. For example, it happens when we learn that an instrument that tells us the time is called a “clock”. It is not a simple association between concepts, the person connects them in a meaningful way.

2. Concept Learning

It is based on grouping the different representations into categories. It happens when we discover that although there are different types of clocks, they all have common attributes.

3. Learning statements

This is the most elaborate form of learning. It implies that the meanings of concepts are processed in depth in order to express them in the form of statements. It’s about creating logical connections.

For example, if we are asked everything we know about clocks, we will comment on their definition, uses, classifications, examples, etc. In order to do this task, we must have gone through the two previous types of learning.

Significant learning: Applications

Significant learning in the classroom

Significant child learning is vital for us to acquire new knowledge later on. Throughout our lives, we will find ourselves in a variety of situations where we have to settle new information deeply in our minds to overcome an academic challenge.

It doesn’t matter if we do it in college, for competition or to get a job. The sooner we implement strategies that enable us to learn meaningfully, the better.

Here are some significant classroom learning activities that will allow you to retain information more deeply.

1. Make concept maps

This will clarify and organize our ideas. Visually capturing the new concepts and linking them with others we know is a great way to firmly establish the latest data.

2. Explain the lesson to a friend

If we begin to talk about the topic we are studying to someone else, we take the trouble to structure the information. By answering your questions and looking for examples, our understanding of the subject will improve considerably.

3. Work in teams

Listening to people’s views helps us to better internalize information. Our colleagues will also benefit from our skills. We will discover new methods and data to incorporate into our learning process.

Significant learning in companies and organizations

Any type of institution requires its members to acquire new knowledge. There are completely mechanical jobs. Others imply a flexible way of thinking that adapts to continuous changes. However, in all jobs, you need to learn.

Recently it is difficult to keep up since it develops so fast. The future is uncertain and changing. This context does not imply that our future is negative, but that we must work hard to be efficient and adapt.

Companies and organizations should promote significant learning for their employees. This will encourage the involvement of workers and increase their productivity. Also, if we know what we are learning for and link it with our previous knowledge, we will be more motivated.

Significant learning in everyday life

We continue to learn throughout the life cycle. David Ausubel’s theory can be extrapolated to countless situations. For example, since childhood, we have some knowledge about cooking. We see people preparing food and exchanging recipes. In addition, we know a large number of dishes and know what we like and what we don’t like.

One day we may become independent and have to put everything we know about cooking into practice. We can ask our father to teach us his best tricks. He will see what our level is and act accordingly. In this way, knowledge will be mixed with those we have been learning all our lives.

In everyday life, we have to learn to live harmoniously with our flatmates, to drive in different cities or to behave in a party. The new situations will provide us with new knowledge that will interact with what we already knew about how to act in those circumstances.

Significant learning: Benefits

Ausubel’s significant learning is a simple theory that guides us to improve both education and interpersonal relationships.

  • Improved student-teacher relationship: If the teacher is concerned about knowing and adapting to the student’s knowledge, the student will adopt a more proactive attitude, be more motivated and study better. This may also apply to other contexts, such as family or peer groups. We may all need to teach something to our acquaintances at a certain point in time.
  • Ease the acquisition of new knowledge: It consists of “learning to learn”. It improves our learning habits and our understanding of the world.
  • The information is stored in long-term memory: The connections we create are thus firmly anchored in our cognitive structure. This way we can easily recover them in the future.
  • It’s personal: Each person has gone through previous experiences that affect their way of perceiving reality. This makes it easier for us to be able to form our own associations in an active and meaningful way. However, it requires a more personalized education that requires more time and dedication from educators.

Significant learning vs. rote learning

We all know people who are able to memorize immense lists very quickly without making practically the slightest effort (rote-learning). You may even be one of them. Or maybe you’d love to have that ability. On the other hand, there are people who, after reading a text, know how to summarize it and explain it perfectly, even if they don’t say it with the same words (significant learning). Which is better?

Each type of learning is more appropriate for a particular situation. It depends on the context, each person’s abilities, and motivation. In addition, everyone has had different experiences that have encouraged them to try to retain information in one way or another.

If we want to pass a subject and forget about it forever, we will probably try to memorize its contents as quickly as possible in order to pass the test. Next, we’ll forget about it when we’re done. On the other hand, if we are particularly interested in an issue, we will do our best to deepen it and internalize everything we learn.

These two types of learning are not opposites. They can perfectly complement each other. In fact, in tasks such as learning a country’s history, there are parts that we learn significantly and others that we memorize (such as dates). In most cases, however, it is preferable to learn significantly in order to make further progress.

Significant Learning Tips

1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

This advice is valid for all areas of our life. Healthy habits are fundamental to our mental and physical health. Doing sports, eating well, keeping a regular schedule and getting enough rest will help us learn better. Likewise, contact with nature will help us to disconnect and de-stress from everyday life.

2. Be curious

Amazement is the key to wanting to inquire into why things are happening. If we ask questions and look for answers, we will be able to build new and lasting partnerships in our memory. Reflecting encourages us to learn more and better.

3. Don’t lose motivation

We are not always motivated to learn. Many times we are lazy to learn or read something new that might not contribute to what we need in the moment. However, we never know when the knowledge we get in certain moments might be needed.  we acquired years ago will be phenomenal. Taking a flexible attitude and accepting all tasks as challenges will bring us countless benefits in the long term.

4. Acquire good study habits

If we organize ourselves and have well-established habits, it will less difficult to study or carry out any similar task.

5. Prevents information overload

We have to face a lot of challenges at once every day. Sometimes we sacrifice doing things right for more activities. However, multitasking worsens our performance. It is preferable for us to know what our priorities are, how much time we have to carry them out and act accordingly. If we focus on a single issue and are clear about what we have to do, we will improve our performance.

6. Create your own summaries and outlines

If you are preparing for an exam, significant learning is the key to success. You can underline the most relevant aspects of the text after reading it a couple of times. Afterwards, when you are clear about what is most important, try to make your own notes with the essentials.

Think about what you know about the topic and connect it with the new information. New associations will emerge to help you master the content. You can use color psychology to make your summaries more memorable. In this way, you will be able to link the contents to emotions, keep attention and highlight the essential.

7. Make Examples

If every time you try to learn something you relate it to previous experiences or knowledge, you will make memorable connections. This way you can go from memorizing a concept to visualizing it and knowing how to explain it. Understanding an issue is the basis for meaningful learning.

Look for examples that excite you. You will create associations that go straight to your amygdala, which is a survival-associated part of the brain and is closely related to learning.

8. Take your time

Sometimes, fatigue or lack of time leads us to take the fastest path and avoid focusing on significant learning. With the rush we probably won’t retain the most important things.

If we are really interested in learning something, it is best to look at a time when we are not overwhelmed and to focus all our attention on this issue. We do not always have this option. But if we make an effort, our concentration will increase and we will appreciate it after seeing the results.

9. Rely on technology

Information and communication technologies allow us to improve our attention and keep us motivated to continue learning. New resources are continually being developed that simplify our daily activities and improve our quality of life. More and more means are being used to enable people to interact with them as they develop new skills.

10. Benefit from brain-based learning

CogniFit is the leading cognitive assessment and stimulation tool. Through an entertaining online brain-based platform, it enables both the specialized and general public to learn more about the brain and train cognitive skills such as memory, attention, perception, and reasoning.

If you have any questions or wish to deepen this topic, do not hesitate to comment. Thank you so much for reading this article.

 
This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
 

CogniFit ranked by scientists as a serious and effective battery of games to fight dementia

  • Scientists from Gjøvik University College (Norway) have classified and evaluated in their study the main health games to combat dementia.
  • CogniFit’s active aging program has positioned itself as leading technology in the prevention, rehabilitation, and evaluation of cognitive function in elders healthy or pathologically ill (Alzheimer’s, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Dementia, depression, insomnia, reduced mobility, etc.). CogniFit offers a series of validated clinical games aimed at preventing active and healthy dependence and aging.
  • The review carried out by these scientists proposes that although there are many brain training games, only a few have a real effect on people with cognitive disabilities. It has been shown that CogniFit has scientific research that demonstrates that the effect of its cognitive training is long-lasting and transferable to everyday activities of older people.

Brain training games dementia- Scientific study

Dementia is one of the most important problems faced by welfare and social security systems. It is estimated that there are currently 35.6 million people with dementia worldwide. This number will almost double every 20 years, reaching an estimated 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.

The most common symptom or characteristic of dementia is memory loss but also there are impediments in thinking, communication, orientation and
to cope with everyday tasks. Other symptoms include personality changes, anxiety, depression, suspicion, delusions, and compulsive behaviors. Dementia has several causes/types, the most common being Alzheimer’ s disease.

There is currently a proliferation of companies offering cognitive training programs and brain stimulation games aimed at treating, evaluating or preventing some of the most typical diseases of our time (dementia, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, etc.). However, there is quite a bit of confusion as to which programs are really serious, effective and useful in addressing the different types of dementia.

In this study, scientists Simon McCallum and Costas Boletsis of Gjøvik University College (Norway) have conducted a review of existing brain training games. The research carried out by these scientists proposes that, although there are many brain training games, only a few have a real effect on people with cognitive disabilities.

It has been shown that CogniFit has scientific research that demonstrates that the effect of its cognitive training is long-lasting and transferable to the activities of everyday living of older people.

CogniFit’s active aging program has positioned itself as a leading technology in the assessment, prevention and rehabilitation of cognitive function in healthy or pathologically elders and seniors (Mild phase Alzheimer’s, Mild Cognitive Impairment, dementia, depression, insomnia, reduced mobility,etc.).

CogniFit offers a battery of validated clinical games aimed at preventing active and healthy dependence and aging. Seniors are at high risk of developing a disease that affects the state of their cognition. CogniFit cognitive maintenance and active aging exercises aim to improve the well-being and quality of life of people as they age.

CogniFit’s mental stimulation and neurorehabilitation program allows for targeted interventions to suit older adults. Providing compensatory cognitive mechanisms and strategies to help you maintain proper mental health, autonomy, and competence for a longer period of time.

CogniFit is a validated cognitive stimulation and rehabilitation tool. This technology is made up of simple automated online brain games that are totally accessible to older adults.

To start using CogniFit, just register. The use of this clinical program is simple and accessible to everyone, including people unfamiliar with computer programs or cognitive intervention batteries.

  • People over 50, older adults and seniors: This program is indicated for anyone interested in evaluating and improving their main cognitive functions.
  • Family members or caregivers: The role of the family is essential to provide support to older adults and help them maintain, or improve, their cognitive functioning and mental speed, as well as, to achieve satisfactory aging and decrease dependency.
  • Health professionals: This validated instrument of stimulation and neurorehabilitation can assist health professionals (doctors, psychologists, elder specialists, etc.) in the detection, diagnosis, and intervention of cognitive disorders associated with aging.
  • Day centers and gerontological interventions: CogniFit’s cognitive rehabilitation tasks and games are very easy to apply, and are tailored to the unique characteristics of each senior.
  • Researchers and scientists: The progressive aging of the population, together with an increase in life expectancy, makes it necessary to promote research aimed at improving the cognitive maintenance of older people and their quality of life.

CogniFit evaluates the capabilities of astronauts in the space mission: Poland Mars Analogue Simulation 2017 (PMAS 2017)

CogniFit participates in the “space race” to reach Mars by assessing the cognitive performance of astronauts under adverse conditions.

  • CogniFit, a leading neuropsychological assessment, cognitive stimulation and brain training program, participates in the Poland Mars Analogue Simulation 2017 (PMAS 2017) international space mission by assessing the crew’s cognitive abilities under adverse conditions on the Moon or Mars.  The technological innovation of CogniFit helps to prepare the arrival of the man to the red planet. Investigating and answering questions about how the human being behaves is fundamental to achieving mission success.
  • CogniFit’s technological innovation helps prepare humans arrival to the red planet. Investigating and answering questions about how human beings behave is fundamental to achieving this mission success.

CogniFit – Cognitive Assessments and Brain Training in Astronauts

The Space Generation Advisory Council, supported by various institutions (such as the United Nations), is sending 6 astronauts to a simulated mission on the planetary surface of the Moon and Mars. This analog simulation project will be carried out in Poland, hence its name: Poland Mars Analogue Simulation 2017 (PMAS 2017).

Participants will have to follow a rigorous schedule of space exploration activities. The first three days of the mission, the astronauts will live and work in a habitat that simulates that of the Moon. The remaining 11 days, the simulated habitat will be Mars. These astronauts will continuously have support from the mission’s support center, that has more than 25 members. In the “Martian phase” of the project, they will have a delay of 15 minutes in their communications, since it is intended to simulate all the conditions of the real habitat.

CogniFit, a leading provider of neuropsychological assessments, cognitive stimulation, and brain training programs, participates in the international space mission by daily assessing the astronaut’s and crew’s cognitive abilities.

Investigating and answering questions about how the human being behaves is fundamental to achieving this mission’s success. Knowing the effects of isolation and other adverse circumstances that can happen in hostile habitats, like that of the Moon or Mars, increases necessary knowledge to launch a space mission to the red planet.

The participants of the mission come from Spain, the United States, France, India, Israel, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, and many more, with a total of 28 countries. For two weeks, the scientific team will perform studies that address a multitude of scientific disciplines ranging from engineering to astrophysics, psychology, geology, and biology.

This makes the Poland Mars Analogue Simulation of 2017 one of the most interdisciplinary, international and multicultural analog missions ever undertaken. CogniFits technological innovation contributes to change history and science by helping to better understand the human brain and prepare them to arrive on the red planet. You can also be like these astronauts, evaluate and train your cognitive abilities by Registering Here.

CogniFit-Poland Mars Analogue Simulation 2017

Korsakoff Syndrome: inventing memories to compensate forgetfulness

Korsakoff syndrome is a memory problem that is usually due to alcohol abuse or overly restrictive diets that lead to vitamin deficiency. Find out here what it consists of, what are its main symptoms, causes, treatment and how we prevent it.

Korsakoff Syndrome

What is the Korsakoff Syndrome?

Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic memory disorder due to severe deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B1.

Thiamin helps the brain produce energy from sugar. When levels fall drastically brain cells can’t generate enough energy to function properly and as a result, Korsakoff syndrome can develop.

It is believed that this deficiency causes damage to the thalamus and mammillary bodies of the hypothalamus. Mammillary bodies are brain parts or small structures with many connections to the hippocampus (an area closely related to memory). There is also general brain atrophy, loss, and neuronal damage.

Research has shown that this deficiency alters the substances responsible for transmitting signals between brain cells and storing memories. These alterations can destroy neurons and cause bleeding and microscopic scars throughout the brain tissue.

This syndrome is often, but not always, preceded by an episode of Wernicke’s encephalopathy. This consists of an acute reaction of the brain due to a severe lack of thiamine. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a medical emergency that causes severe life-threatening brain disturbance, mental confusion, uncoordinated movement and abnormal and involuntary eye movements. Because Korsakoff syndrome is commonly preceded by an episode of Wernicke’s encephalopathy, the chronic disorder is sometimes called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. However, Korsakoff can develop without a previous episode of this encephalopathy.

Korsakoff Syndrome Symptoms

Korsakoff is characterized by memory problems but retaining consciousness. This may give the impression during conversations that he is in full possession of his faculties.

However, he has severe alterations in recent memory. The person will ask the same questions over and over again, read the same page for hours, and is not able to recognize the people they have seen several times in the course of his illness.

Memory problems can be very severe, both short-term memory and long-term memory with many memory gaps or memory loss, while other skills such as social or thoughts may be relatively intact.

The main symptoms are:

  • Anterograde amnesia: inability to form new memories or learn new information.
  • Retrograde amnesia: severe loss of existing memories, prior to the beginning of the disease.
  • Confabulations: invented memories that are believed by the individual himself as real because of memory gaps.
  • Conversation with low content.
  • Lack of introspection.
  • Apathy.

Individuals with Korsakoff syndrome may show different symptoms. In some cases, a patient may continue to “live in the past”, convinced that his life and the world remain unchanged since the beginning of the disorder.

Others may display a wide variety of confabulations. Retrograde amnesia does not happen to all memories alike but affects more in recent events. The older the memories, the more they remain intact. This may be because recent memories are not fully consolidated in our brains, therefore, being more vulnerable to their loss.

Confabulations in Korsakoff Syndrome

One of the most characteristic symptoms of people with Korsakoff syndrome is the confabulations. They often “collude” or invent information they can’t remember. It is not that they are “lying”, but actually believe their invented explanations. There is still no agreed scientific explanation as to why this happens.

Korsakoff Syndrome-Confabulations

Some people may show constant, even frenetic, conspiracies. They continually invent new identities, with detailed and convincing stories that support them, to replace the reality they have forgotten.

Causes of Korsakoff Syndrome

We know that excessive intake of alcohol can harm our nervous system. In fact, in most cases, Korsakoff’s syndrome is due to alcohol abuse and its consequences on our brain.

Research has identified some genetic variations that may increase the risk of this disorder. In addition, poor nutrition can also be an important factor.

Korsakoff syndrome can also be caused by eating disorders, such as anorexia, overly restrictive diets, starvation, or sudden weight loss after surgery. Also by uncontrolled vomiting, HIV virus, chronic infection or cancer that has spread throughout the body.

Treatment of Korsakoff Syndrome

Intervention for Korsakoff syndrome should be approached from a multidisciplinary point of view, in which doctors, psychologists, and neuropsychologists will work to achieve the best results.

Some experts recommend that people who consume large amounts of alcohol or have other risks of thiamine deficiency, take oral supplements, always under the supervision of a doctor.

It is also recommended that anyone who has had a history of alcohol abuse or symptoms associated with Wernicke’s encephalopathy be injected with thiamine. For people who develop Korsakoff Syndrome, treatment with oral thiamine, other vitamins and magnesium may increase the chances of symptoms improving.

A psychological intervention will revolve around maintaining alcohol abstinence. From the neuropsychological point of view, it will help to compensate for their deficits, so that the patient can integrate socially and lead a life as normal as possible. CogniFit is a tool that trains different cognitive skills affected by Korsakoff Syndrome. 

Prognosis of Korsakoff syndrome

Some data suggest that about 25 percent of people with Korsakoff syndrome recover, half improve but don’t fully recover, and another 25 percent remain the same.

According to these researchers, the mortality rate is high, between 10 and 20%. This is mainly due to lung infection, septicemia, liver decompensation disorder and an irreversible thiamine deficiency state.

Early attention and treatment for Korsakoff symptoms is very important. Early treatment of Wernicke’s encephalopathies may improve prognosis and prevent Korsakoff’s syndrome. For example, eye problems begin to improve in hours or days, motor problems, in days or weeks. Although some 60% of patients may have some residual symptoms.

According to these authors, once the Korsakoff syndrome has been established, the prognosis is quite pessimistic. Approximately 80% of patients are left with a chronic memory disorder. These can get to learn simple and repetitive tasks that involve procedural memory (motor memory).

Cognitive recovery is slow and incomplete and reaches its highest level of recovery after one year of treatment. Although recovery may occur, it depends on factors such as age or alcohol withdrawal.

Tips for Preventing Korsakoff Syndrome

Tips for Preventing Korsakoff Syndrome

The primary advice is to reduce your alcohol intake to a minimum. The less alcohol, the better. Although we think that drink very little, the fact is that even in small amounts, we are already damaging our body.

  • A healthy and non-restrictive diet will ensure the synthesis of the vitamins needed to function properly and in particular thiamine or B1.
  • Go to the doctor whenever we detect memory problems. He will establish if it is a problem associated with normal aging or some kind of dementia.
  • Maintain a good support system, since loved ones will be of help in case any disturbing symptoms appear.
  • If you think you drink more than you do and don’t know how to quit, go to a professional who will help you reduce your alcohol intake.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Andrea García Cerdán, translated by Alejandra Salazar.