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College Life And Learning

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College Life and Learning

College, to many people, means that it is the opportunity to learn and absorb knowledge to prepare them for life. To others it means they are finally free of supervision and it is their time to have fun and enjoy themselves (These usually do not last long because they flunk out). Then there are those who try to combine both and either succeed or fail. We know that bad habits are detrimental to cognition in general. There are new studies that show drinking to excess, bad eating, and partying have devastating effects on learning and memory. College may be one of the worst possible environments to learn something and retain it.

A normal person spends one-third of their lives asleep. Stanford University recently surveyed undergraduates and medical students and found that 80% of them were sleep deprived. The National Sleep Foundation poll found that young adults got only 6.8 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is crucial to declarative memory which helps us to remember facts. It is also essential for procedural memory which helps us to learn procedures like math calculations. Matt Walker, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, said, "Practice makes perfect, but having a night's rest after practicing might make you even better. Walker took 100 people and taught them to type out a series of nonsense sequences on a keyboard. The people hadn't improved when they were asked to repeat the procedure. Walker then allowed one group of students to sleep overnight before retesting them. Their speed and accuracy improved by 20 to 30%. He discovered that, for procedural memory, the last two hours of sleep was the most important and for declarative memory, the first two hours. This shows that memory requires a full eight hours of sleep. Pulling an all-nighter to study for an exam may help you pass, but you may not remember any of the material next semester.

Eating the wrong types of food will adversely affect your learning ability. A survey conducted by Tufts University found that 50% of students eat too much fat, and 70 to 80% eat too much saturated fat. Researchers have known since the late 1980s that bad eating habits contribute to the kind of cognitive decline found in diseases like Alzheimer's. Ann-Charlotte Granholm, of the Center for Aging at the Medical University of South Carolina, has recently focused on trans-fat. Trans-fat is used in fast-food cooking because it extends the shelf life of foods. She took two groups of rats and fed one a diet high in trans-fat and the other a diet low in trans-fat. Six weeks later she tested the rats in a water maze and the high trans-fat rats made many more errors. After examining their brains, she found that trans-fat eaters had fewer proteins critical to healthy neurological function and also saw inflammation in and around the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. These are the same types of changes that are seen in the early onset of Alzheimer's.

Most people know that drinking to excess is not conducive to a good learning environment. They figure that once the drunkenness wears off



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