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Kotler (2005) enumerated four detrimental habits of college students to explain his statement, “The exact place we go to get an education may in fact be one of the worst possible environments in which to retain anything we’ve learned”. He listed: sleep deprivation, bad eating habits, alcoholism, and smoking, along with related statistics and recent studies at the time. Kotler wrote that sleep is critical to declarative memory which stores facts and experiences as well as procedural memory which is used in repetitive learned skills.
He noted how this might affect the 80 percent of sleep deprived students as well as most young adults who get an average of 6.8 hours of sleep a night. He presented a research that showed an overnight sleep improved procedural memory by 20 to 30 percent as opposed to another group that had no sleep before taking the procedural memory test 12 hours later. As for eating habits, he reiterated how it is known to contribute to cognitive decline particularly trans fat and saturated fat.
He reported that 50 percent of students eat too much fat and 70 to 80 percent eat too much saturated fat. He presented studies that showed the harmful effects of fatty foods on lab mice in which the researchers predicted similar risks for neurodegenerative disorders in humans. Kotler noted that cell regeneration in the brain is a recent discovery as new studies are conducted as to how alcohol affects its dynamics. Studies into the effects of alcohol in lab mice correlated with the neuron’s birth and maturity in the brain.
Mice subjected to excessive alcohol displayed cognitive decline but given enough time (about 19 days) to generate new neurons, normal cognitive functions are recovered.
A nationwide survey reported that as much as 40 percent of college students can be classified as binge drinkers. Kotler wrote, when it comes to cognitive performance, smoking may actually present a benefit. Studies showed that nicotine improves mental focus, may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, and improve spatial, emotional and auditory memory. However, nicotine encourages state dependent learning which requires the user to be smoking as well, when taking an exam for instance, in order to benefit from smoking. Kotler stated that as many as 30 percent of college students smoke. Higher education as Kotler described is perilous. Indeed, as part of long term goals, one should be aware of long term hazards as well. He presented compelling data that any college student should be aware of. Awareness is critical. By being aware a student does not have to be part of the culture despite being in the middle of it. We get ourselves education to better ourselves but we must take caution not to kill ourselves in the process.
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