When we learn something, there are a lot of different processes taking place in our brains. And to stimulate those processes, we are to get engaged in various activities. The most important are recognition and recall. Memory is also seen as a system of “retention, reactivation, and reconstruction of the experience-independent internal representation” (Baddeley 1976, p. 66). To remember the material well, I devote much time to reading the assigned chapters, about couple hours per day. Conscious recall is them made due to the declarative memory that encodes abstract knowledge (that is semantic memory). I also read the same material several times to activate non-conscious memory (procedural, or implicit memory which involves the cerebellum and basal ganglia), but it is necessary to make breaks and to return to the material after certain period of time. After the week is over, I review the material twice before moving on to the next week. In fact, I use almost the same patterns of studying: I need to get acquainted with the new material, to confront it to the older knowledge, to understand it and remember in order to make the new knowledge available for the test.
When the information gets into my brain, the process of long-term potentiation takes place. It means that there are certain structural neural changes, also known as engram or memory changes. The declarative memory involves the diencephalon of the brain.
If I engage not only short-term memory, the information will be available even in several month and a year after the test, but for that I need to take certain efforts: the knowledge has to be organized and categorized, repeated loudly and distinctively, elaborated and supported with a strong effort.
Short-term and long-terms memories are not stored in different areas of the brain, but they are separated by hippocampus. They are stored in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, but long-term memory is also associated with the medial temporal lobe. Synaptic consolidation and system consolidation turn the short-term memory into long-term memory at the molecular level due to the protein synthesis process in the medial temporal lobe. Unfortunately, it is often hard to remember the material, even if it has been learn properly. There are different factors interfering with the process of retrieving the memories from the brain. Sometimes the new knowledge is interfered with the old, sometimes vice versa. Memories can be also distorted by outside influence and they are actually updated during retrieval. Anyway, there are many methods to enhance short-term and long-term retention and retrieval of information. When the memory is trained, it is harder to make it confused. To organize the knowledge I get, I structure it by means of an association with a train. I imagine that thinking is a long express moving fast inside my head, and I fill a coach by coach with information. Inside each coach there are compartments, and inside each compartment there are upper and lower berths. Each piece of information gets it own place, and when then there is a need to recall this or that piece, my brain knows what coach and what compartment to enter, to which berth to turn. It is also useful to make cues that enhance prospective memory. I prefer to use sticky notes for important dates, terminology necessary for the topic and so on.
Baddeley, Alan D. (1976). The Psychology of Memory. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
Baars, B. J. & Gage, N. M. (2007). Cognition, Brain, and Consciousness: Introduction to cognitive neuroscience. London: Elsevier Ltd.