T Nation

Retaining Information and Just Brain-Dead


I've come to the realization that I have a problem retaining any new information that I come across. I guess I've known for a while, but never actually realized how bad it was until the other day, when I got called out by a friend after trying to explain something that I had literally just read 3 hours before the conversation.

I consider myself someone who wants to constantly learn. I have lots of interests in many different areas. Reading was never important in my house growing up...my parents were too busy with other things to worry about whether I was actually doing the book reports, research papers, etc. I barely scathed by highschool and eventually (with a complete lack of guidance and glearing personal issues) failed out of college.

I can remember always being interested in new information, but never being able to finish learning anything...at that point I would just chalk it up as ADD and not being interested completely in the subject, and continued on with my life. (not a good choice btw)

At some point I started controlling the ADD aspect of it.(barely) I could read books, listen to lectures/presentations, and watch docs/movies/presentation a little longer and longer. I do not believe it's under control, but I do believe it's going in the right direction.
My set back is that when ever I'm learning something new regardless of the median it's being introduced through, I cannot retain said information.

This has been going on for as long as I can remember now and I'm just completely fed up with it. So my question is to fellow TNationers, how do I retain information that I learn? Is there something wrong with my brain? Is it just the way I'm learning it? am I doomed?


Contrary to popular belief, most people don't remember things the first time they hear/read it. Even those supposed "smart" people. Often times they just know what works for them and follow it well, and so they memorize/learn things faster. True "geniuses", if you will, are incredibly rare.

Repetition is the key. If you want to know something, you need to engage yourself with it daily.

Pick a random article that you're interested in. Take the time to read it in a thorough manner. Read it again tomorrow. And then the day after that... do this for about a week. You should notice that you're finishing the article sooner, and that you have more time to think on what's written. Eventually, you should be able to remember most details written in article and even be capable of reciting passages.

If you can't, then you might have reasons to be concerned.


Do you smoke pot?


How are your dreams?


nootropics may help


It's your expectations that need adjusting not your brain.

Even when you have considerable familiarity with a topic there are always going to be things you need to look up because it just gets too complicated to rely upon your memory. Your better option is to know the complications in the subject and remember how to find out the detail you can't bring to mind.


This sounds like classic "brain fog" from diet. I find when I eat a lot of crap, I feel a little mentally slow.

Also, if the subject is not interesting and I'm not engaged in it, I find it hard to focus and retain.


I saw a TV show on Discovery Channel not too long ago that talked about how the availability of information via the internet is slowly changing how our minds work. The Dr. hypothesized we'd eventually retain almost no information instead relying on a collective (like the internet) for all knowledge.

FWIW I've noticed something similar has been happening to me over the past few years. Nootropics haven't seemed to help; although, I feel sharper when I am using them.

My hypothesis (lol at me) is that the constant barrage of images & video we see online (think of Imgur/reddit/TheChive) has taught my brain to quickly forget something in order to absorb what's coming next.

If I'm not mistake it takes something like 24 hours before information is transferred to long term memory. That's probably why people that cram for exams rarely remember the material even a week later.

Interested to see how this thread goes.


How do you combat brain fog?


I wonder how much of it is "use it or lose it." If you don't apply said knowledge, how can you expect to retain it? \

Think of something like Math or a foreign language. You can read all the books and see all the lectures you want, but until you actually do something with it, you aren't going to remember jack.


Occasionally. I've gone 1.5 years without at one point but it never changed anything.


As fucked up as they've always been.


Not that long, then.


Doesn't sound like you're actually studying, you're just expecting yourself to retain information.
Memory is a skill and requires practice.

Here's also a "Great Courses" link to a 6-part series on building a memory

Also you can try dual N-back, although ymmv, some people like it, some don't


Yep. Experience/hands-on > book smarts


How do you combat brain fog?

In my case, by making better food choices. If it's not a diet issue I'll go for a walk/take a quick break to get refocused.


I find that I have had quite the opposite happen, I use the internet to research and study new things and retain the information quite well. I suppose it depends how you use it as a tool. I would sit there for hours studying long pages of text in what I was learning. I suppose it would be different if I just google searched every question I had. To be honest a civilization that relies on a super computer database for all information is quite scary, almost like turning that type of technology into some sort of deity and also never questioning what they hear.

OP there is a lot of reasons that could be attributing issues retaining information at present for you. We would need to know more information like how your stress levels are, if there is any anxiety or depression in your life, diet, medications you may be on, etc.. A lot of different things can trigger it but easily can be fixed.


My stress levels are high, recently laid off, just moved...trying to get my life together but seem to have hit a monsterous size speed bump.
Anxiety and depression are there. I'd like to combat them as natural as possible seeing how I believe they're their because of outside factors more than chemical imbalances
Diet was tuned in for quite a few months till I lost my job in Sept and since then it's been mediocre at best.
I'm not on any medications but have been researching low t because I believe that a lot of my symptoms point in that direction.

I'm also combating auto-immune issues(alopecia barbae, erythomelagia, random bouts of hair loss, and some nerve bullshit)


I find the idea disconcerting as well.

Oh and I should say I didn't really mean research as much as casual reading online. If I sit down to do legitimate research I have found I can retain that information as easily as out of say a text book for example.


Apparently curiosity helps with retention as well