The deeper I get into this project, the more I realize that most of the information I learn is ephemeral.  One day, complete understanding of some concept;  two weeks later, barely a fuzzy memory.

Here’s what happens: I’ll spend a few weeks studying math (or grammar, or reading), then I’ll turn my attention to another element that needs tending to, and by the time I go back, the original information is hazy (at best), and certainly not enough to solve the problem at hand.

I can’t help thinking about my daughter, who has repeatedly told me “it’s really hard to get good grades in every subject at the same time.”

She’s right!  I really, deeply, get it!

Turns out there’s science to verify this frustrating phenomenon and a new study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) about the brain orchestrating competition between memories:

For the last 100 years, it has been appreciated that trying to learn facts and skills in quick succession can be a frustrating exercise,” explains Edwin Robertson, MD, DPhil, an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and BIDMC. “Because no sooner has a new memory been acquired than its retention is jeopardized by learning another fact or skill.


There’s a new discovery about a potential solution which I’m not going to attempt to explain, but you can read it on this Science blog.

All I can say is, this is not easy!


llustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis