Academic common room
Cannot retain information
IamAporcupine · 26/04/2018 14:54
I am a research associate working in Biomedical Sciences. I deal with very large amounts of data, projects, IDs, etc, etc and I have no problem remembering any of these. In fact I remember things other colleagues don't. I would say that I am good at my job.
However, I am finding increasingly difficult to read papers. I just cannot retain (or sometimes even understand!) the information. There are papers that I have read many times and I still cannot recall them. It's like my brain is foggy or there is no space left! It is becoming very upsetting as it is making me feel I am a bit stupid.
This definitely didn't happen when I was doing my PhD. Or a few years ago, before I had my son. I am wondering if it is an age thing (I am >45) or something else might be going on?!
Does anyone have any tips to overcome this?
QueenRefusenik · 26/04/2018 16:24
Just wondering if I posted this and forgot... Ahem. Nope, I don't think so but I could have. For me it's happened since coming back from mat leave, now aged 42 and it's not so much research-related info as people/task-related - I have to deal with a lot of student with various issues and problems and associated paperwork and I used to be able to keep them all straight with no trouble at all. Now they all meld together in my brain and I can't remember who's had extensions to assignments or other special arrangements or why... Just had a panicked email from a student I contacted to ask why they hadn't submitted an essay. Thy had an extension, that I personally had signed off on... Gah. And my personal and work email in boxes are full of things I've forgotten to respond to... Even nice things like parties and play dates! Every email starts with... 'SO sorry about the delay in responding...'
I have no suggestions, I'm afraid, watching for anyone else's - tbh I'm struggling with it a little. I've always been v organised and on top of things and now I'm a mess and my brain is like Swiss cheese. I've been vaguely putting it down to perimenopause like everything else and taking the relevant supplements but it doesn't seem to be helping much. I just don't feel like me!
mummyhaschangedhername · 26/04/2018 16:31
I am the same, I have always been a bit like it though and it has been worse since I had children. I am a avid reader but I forget things very quickly. I even struggle with short-term memory tasks like remembering a phone number, I have to type numbers in 3 or 4 digits at a time before looking again. I'm dyslexic if that makes a difference. I don't really struggle despite clearly being part gold fish, I am doing my second degree currently and on track for a 1st, so I can understand information but struggle to retain things.
Spanneroo · 26/04/2018 16:34
I had an incredible memory ahead of getting pregnant with DD1. It has forever changed my brain and I can no longer remember much at all without prompting -If I'm lucky- . This wasn't helped by her being a shit sleeper until she was 2 (and now her younger sister a couple of years later). I think people underestimate the long term impact of hormones/severe sleep deprivation.
I work around it these days by making use of copious and meticulous note taking and diary planning. Sadly, I don't think I will ever get back to my former self, but I can at least fake it 80% of the time by being incredibly organised and essentially revising at the beginning and ends of each day about what's gone on/is coming up.
It's really shit though.
BestBeforeYesterday · 26/04/2018 16:49
I am more than a decade younger than you and have had similar problems since becoming a mum. Initially, I put it down to sleep deprivation. Then they started sleeping well, but my memory was still rubbish! I started taking vitamin supplements, still no difference. Now, I think its due to the sheer number of things I have to remember. Even getting out of the house in the morning means thinking of umpteen things, it's not a question of having breakfast, brushing teeth and leaving. It's a question of having to remember more stuff than my short term memory can cope with.
No solutions, sorry!
rhnireland · 26/04/2018 16:57
Just wondering if your thyroid and vitamin d levels are ok as both can have an impact on memory.
IamAporcupine · 26/04/2018 21:36
@rhnireland, I do not know really, but I guess they are as I've been having loads of blood test for other things and they didn't come up as a problem (unless they were not measured at all?)
Well, glad that I am not the only one, but sorry you are all suffering too!
I think with me it is not just a memory problem, I do remember most stuff, it is mainly complex ideas - I understand them (vaguely) and then, pop, they vanish
nakedscientist · 28/04/2018 13:29
This might be way off beam, but have you thought you may need reading glasses?
Your may be struggling to keep in focus, instead of absorbing the info!
Thespringsthething · 29/04/2018 11:57
I find that to really translate what I've read I have to write it down- so write some bullet points or a short summary of the main points of the paper. They then act to jog my memory when I come back to it (especially if coloured in highlighter pen on the top of the paper!)
I also rely a lot on Mendeley and databases like that because they have a search function so you can search for a keyword in your own references like you would with Google. This saves you having to remember which papers go where.
I think expecting it all to just go in without a bit more memory work is unlikely, by now you have probably read 1000 papers in your life and it's natural that you don't remember most of them freely unless they are right in front of you...
Wimpling · 29/04/2018 15:57
I’m exactly the same - same age, same problem! I can keep track of my kids’ complex social and school arrangements, but I struggle to remember the detail of academic work - even articles that I’ve written myself in the past.
Sad to say I’ve not found an answer yet (really I’m worried that I have some kind of early-onset Alzheimers...), but
- reading glasses have definitely helped concentration a bit
- I’m trying iron and magnesium tablets, on the recommendation of other Mumsnetters (my iron levels are right at the bottom of the normal range). No improvement yet...
I also think that it’s partly, as Thespring said, that by now I’ve just read a lot, and so it’s harder to find new mental space. Also I suspect that I’m lazier now - I read more on my computer screen, which is less efficient in terms of retaining information (so I’m told?), and if I think back to my PhD days, I take fewer notes. There’s definitely something about writing your own notes that I find helps, so I’m trying to do more of that, and consciously take the time to synthesise the information rather than expecting it to come together in my head by itself.
But I would love to hear any other suggestions!
Littlechocola · 29/04/2018 16:01
I have to write notes to be able to understand and remember.
I also ask lots of questions which I don’t like doing but got fed up with feeling like I was drowning by not understanding/ remembering.
nakedscientist · 29/04/2018 18:06
Notes work because writing uses a different part of the brain than reading so you are re enforcing the neural pathway.
When you are reading, make sure you are not thinking about something else in another corner of your brain, timetable the time into your day. I put it into my google diary as an official event.
counterpoint · 29/04/2018 18:12
These complex ideas that you are trying to understand or retain, are you reading them online (PC) or in (old-fashioned) paper form?
IamAporcupine · 02/05/2018 22:13
Oh my, I'd forgotten about this thread!
@nakedscientist - that might be adding to the problem too
@Thespringsthething, @Littlechocola, @Wimpling - agree, it does help if I write it down, however I have notes written a week ago about a paper I read and I have no idea what they mean!
I am starting to think I am just not clever enough anymore?
@nakedscientist - that is definitely an issue, I can tell sometimes my brain is not really engaged
@counterpoint - in paper form
IamAporcupine · 02/05/2018 22:14
Because I think it is not that I do not remember, I think I also do not understand
nakedscientist · 02/05/2018 22:42
Porcupine don't loose confidence in yourself. If you don't understand it, it's probably badly written, not interesting or outside your area. You will understand a lot more than most! Give yourself a break.
We are grinding to the end of term and your brain is full. Make sure you get proper downtime and some wide horizons and fresh air.
You are clever enough!
IamAporcupine · 04/05/2018 23:06
Funnily enough I managed to understand and retain the info from the papers I read the last couple of days
Slightlyperturbedowlagain · 04/05/2018 23:10
Trust me, it’s just that you have 100 times more going on to remember now. I have 2 DCs age 9 and 12 and am starting to come through the other end of this. You are remembering for 2 (or 3 or 4 depending on how many DCs you have and how involved in the day to day shit your DP is) It will come back.
GettingBackToMe · 04/05/2018 23:36
This is going to sound odd, but bear with me... nutritionist friend was telling me about white fish and eggs being brilliant brain-food, so I tested it out on recent exams for my MA. Past papers all had me flummoxed and I'd been telling her that I definitely wasn't as clever as I used to be before I had my children.
Anyway, I went ever-so-slightly overboard for a fortnight, eating omelette every lunchtime and white fish most nights, and when I looked at the actual exam paper I found that loads of the questions made sense, and I ended up with a choice of things that I felt comfortable to write on. Just 2 weeks before I had been staring blankly at practice paper unable to link two thoughts together.
Haven't got the marks back yet, so could well be that I am just deluded (oh please no!) but whatever the result I really noticed a massive improvement in my memory, ability to make connections, and just a general feeling that the cogs were turning again!
IamAporcupine · 05/05/2018 00:13
GettingBackToMe not odd at all and funny you mention it...
The last couple of days I felt the same - that my brain was actually engaging. The main difference was that I didn't have that constant foggy feeling and I wondered whether there was something in my diet that might be contributing?
boatyardblues · 05/05/2018 00:22
I read about people in the UK not getting enough vitamin D, so I started taking a daily high dose vit D supplement last autumn. I commented on how perky I was feeling a few weeks later to DH, so he joined me & felt the same improvement. When we compared notes our main observations were “the fog lifted” and more energy. I usually also get a winter slump and get mopey. I powered through this year.
Devilishpyjamas · 05/05/2018 00:54
It could be an attention problem rather than a memory problem. Can be a particular problem if stressed.
Over the summer I had the most stressful time of my life to date. I couldn’t remember anything, while conversations missing etc. Luckily at the time I was doing some work on dementia. Initially I was paranoid but then came across the effect stress has on attention and therefore memory (info never actually makes it into memory)....
GettingBackToMe · 05/05/2018 21:30
That's interesting Devilishpyjamas maybe it is a cocktail of doom: less time to eat properly, more stuff to remember, more stressful trying to get things done in the time you have, less time to sleep etc.
GettingBackToMe · 05/05/2018 21:31
And obviously if you are busy, not time to sit in the sun for vitamin D either! Off to Holland & Barrett on tuesday...
Dragongirl10 · 05/05/2018 21:41
Op try cutting out sugar, lowering intake of red meat and white foods, l did this to lose some weight and it helped my concentration noticeably.
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