How to increase working memory?

Robert W

Advisor Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
4
Likes
0
Points
33
Location
Denmark
#1
I'm suffering from issues related to (lack of) working memory, and I desperately need help, as it's crucial for my career and the patients. I'm a physician, finished Medical school 6 months ago. Working diligently on the wards, but having huge difficulties keeping track of multiple things. When I see a patient, I always go with a pen and paper, write everything down, otherwise I'm "loosing it", feeling things are way too complicated for me to grasp.
I miraculously made it to and through Med school, working extremely hard on it, and despite that, receiving low grades. I said to myself: "I'm not going to drop out because it's too difficult". Now, I feel everything is too overwhelming.
For example, when working a long shift at the ER, I have a few patients to keep track of, and often I need to present whom I hospitalized during the day. I basically need to read my notes, otherwise I get lost. I'm noticing that other new Doctors either don't have the same problem, or to a much lesser extent.
A few days ago we had a course, with scenario training, where I'm the Doctor, being presented with a patient: "a 69year old woman, operated 2 weeks ago for appendicitis, now stable, gets comes to the ER due to new abdominal pains, starting 3 days ago, worsening 4 hours ago today. Has diarrhea with blood. No co-morbidity other than atrial fibrillation. Your task is to keep her stable until she gets a CT in 2 hours"
When I get this amount of info told once, I got lost, and when forwarding it to the nurse, I "lost" a few points from the history: the diarrhea, the co-morbidity. Then I got a reprimand that I haven't told the whole story. I know it's a lot of info with some speed, but others don't have problems with it.
Other reprimands I received, were "not having enough knowledge", even though it's not the case. In reality, I just got lost in the details and "too much information" about the patients and their co-morbidities and all the results together, and if I need to think fast, I get a blackout. I perform better when able to work slowly.

Now, I know that the internet has lots of resources for improving working memory. However, I'd like to hear if there is something that specifically worked either for you or someone else, and if it's backed up by research, it's even better. I simply don't have the resources to try everything out and see in a year if there is improvement or not. Besides, Jordan Petersen points out some reasearch that says you can't increase your intelligence, but some other sources say you can, especially if there is only one aspect that needs the improvement.

I measured my IQ on the Internet, and it shows 116, which is above average, but below average of students from highly selective studies, like Medicine (average around 122). I ascribe my challenges to A LOT of negative stress and depressive episodes due to the bullying I received through high school and early adult years (before Med school), and the anxiety disorder. However, I can't change my past, and I'm doing everything in my power, including a healhy diet, to manage the anxiety. So I'm desperate to find a way that works with the working memory. Besides, I'm not distracting myself, I'm keeping myself as focused as I can, but "getting lost".
PS. I'm already doing exercise for speed reading (with moderate results) and doing my best I can to stay present and do "first things first" at work.
PS2. any resources like books, or specialists etc are welcome too :)
 
Last edited:

MoreSuccess

Senior Advisor
Staff member
Joined
May 28, 2011
Messages
561
Likes
334
Points
257
Location
California, USA
#2
By chance have you checked your Thyroid TSH level? I had growing memory problems and other symptoms for so many years until a different doctor thought to test me. Going on Levothyroxine changed my life. I've helped several other people that had Thyroid issues and didn't know it until I advise them to ask for the test.

How about trying some nootropics that have showed results for memory improvement?

There is also some evidence that meditation and mindfulness could help with memory. See https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bits...Prospective Memory.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y. I know for myself it's reduced anxiety as I trained my mind to be able to stay more present in day to day life and not get caught up in the negative thinking as often.

There is evidence that regular meditation can actually physically change your brain through neuroplasticity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3541490/. I find this fascinating and seems science has much more to learn about this subject.

A book I started but didn't finish is https://www.amazon.com/Unlimited-Memory-Advanced-Strategies-Productive-ebook/dp/B00I3QS1XQ. I'm just not sure how much it helps and would take a lot of work to do the techniques in an automatic manner.
 

Robert W

Advisor Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
4
Likes
0
Points
33
Location
Denmark
#3
Thank you for your reply. Yes, I've cheked my levels, also vitamins and food allergies. All is fine. From my own experience, my problems are triggered by my anxiety disorder, as I perform quite worse when being anxious.

Nootropics: I don't drink coffee due to my anxiety, but drink a lot of tea that has L-theanine. Also taking gingko biloba for circulation in the brain. Stem renu is also good, but very expensive, taking it from time to time. Very limited results, but I do what I can.

Meditation: I do meditate, but not as diligently as I want to. Somehow almost all meditations tell you to focus on the breathing, and it's not for me. I start hyperventilating and feeling as if I'm short of breath. Even when I'm relaxed, my body is still tense. Some people say I walk like a robot, even when I'm relaxed. What works best for me is meditation where I focus totally outside of myself - hearing sounds or watching things around me. Just being present, but directing attention outside of myself. I don't know if it's as effective as research shows about the "inside yourself" focus.
 

MoreSuccess

Senior Advisor
Staff member
Joined
May 28, 2011
Messages
561
Likes
334
Points
257
Location
California, USA
#4
It sounds like you're really well informed on things to try.

Focusing on the breath during meditation sometimes helps me get started, however I find it actually distracting from deeper meditation. I often like to just try be in a pure awareness mode, both outside and inside. By inside I mean noticing the thoughts that pop into my head and letting them go. I think of them as like bugs flying around my head that sometimes pester me and I just swat them away. For outside, just being aware of sounds, feelings in my body, and smells. I frequently do the same thing when awake and doing something that's more mindless such as riding my bike, walking or driving. I think the practice in doing this frequently has helped me with anxiety more than anything over the last couple years, e.g. noticing immediately when anxious thoughts are happening and quickly releasing them befor

Regarding memory, in my job I often find the more detailed my notes, the less I'm remembering the information. The act of taking notes is impeding my mind in really imprinting things as well. Sometimes I just right down keywords that will ensure I don't forget about the point and the keyword may be enough to bring back the details. However I can see where in your field it's a risky proposition when someone's health is at stake to potentially overlook a key piece of information.

Perhaps answers lie in neuroplasticity if we could understand how to most efficiently enhance and focus that process, a topic I"d like to read more about. https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/neuroplasticity/ seems to have good information.