Diffuse thought: to learn while you rest

Or we have spoken in the blog of how using the €œsubconscious mind€ or the €œdeep level€ to know the correct answer in examinations test. You know what I talk about? It is that €œblow€ of certainty that appears of the interior of your mind when they do a question to you of examination, and all the studied one in previous days begins to appear almost without effort. It is that absolute sensation of security in an answer that in the immense majority of the cases allows to guess right the question you. Navy, a Medicine student, spoke of it in the commentaries of the entrance exceeds how to make examinations tests.

He is something very similar to which some experts call €œdiffuse thought€.

I discovered this resource when she was preparing the MIR. Surely already it used it from the start of the race, but when it prepared the MIR I began to use it by system. , I even dedicated myself to work that deep level, because I realized of which it gave practically a 100% me of successes in the maneuverses.


Perhaps you think that I am speaking to you of fantasies, ghosts or pseudoscience.

Quite the opposite, I am speaking to you of a fantastic quality that all we own in our brain and which you can learn to use systematically€¦

  • In order to rest without remorses between study sessions concentrate
  • In order to assimilate difficult concepts without crushing to you during hours
  • In order to even enjoy short whiles of leisure (it deports, music, free air) in the final weeks of examinations

It continues reading if you want to know the method 3 steps to activate your diffuse thought and to learn difficult concepts more easily.




Since the home of the 21st century one thinks that our mental current oscillates continuously between two ways of operation:

  1. The focused thought, that appears as soon as loans attention to some task, concept or object
  2. The diffuse thought, that arises when we let wander our mind without a concrete objective

Diverse hypotheses exist about the utility of the diffuse way, since it is obvious why we used the focused way. The diffuse way serves to maintain the thoughts on we ourself, our memories, interpretations of the external events and the plans de futuro. Some authors think that the diffuse way serves, in the kingdom animal, to watch the surroundings while €œwe focused€ in feeding to us and other basic activities (1). This allows to detect potentials dangers and favors the survival.

The diffuse way is what account allows your cat to occur of which you approach his plate of food, and therefore to snort themselves or to send a scratch as a warning.


According to the investigations of Barbara Oakley (professor in Coursera of the course €œLearning how to learn€) (2), the diffuse way allows to work on diverse problems in background, while another activity is even realised that requires certain center.

In the diffuse way of thought multiple cerebral areas participate. During the interaction of these areas, the new learned concepts are brooded, they are combined to each other and with previous knowledge, and they consolidate of unconscious form.

For this, it is necessary previously that you have been working of form focused and intense in a concrete problem: the similarities and differences of the cardiac arrhythmias, psychiatric drugs, the actions of different muscles from the forearm€¦

Many artists and writers have used the diffuse way to create. Salvador Dal­ used a trick to start up its more surrealistic creativity: one says that one sat down to doze with some keys in the hand. At the moment which it began to enter surfaces of the dream, when the mental images go off, the keys fell to the ground and the noise woke up to him. It used then the material that was enso±ando for some of its artistic creations.

The great similarity between creating exists and learning. In the learning, we took elements from the outside and we recreated them, we mixed and we combined with our previous vision of the world to generate a new form to look at the things.

In the case of the study of the Medicine, we learn to look at the human organism, its functions and their alterations of completely novel forms for us. The concepts are general objectives and for all, but the form in which each student assimilates them is completely personal. You need to be creative to understand and to learn. Thus, some keep mental photographies from the route of the arteries by the body, whereas others need €œturns€ as arteries to remember how they get ready by the organism, and other few are helped of their verbal memory.


You will not obtain anything if you limit yourself to read superficially a subject and try to assimilate it without doing nothing else. The deep learning of a matter requires to often alternate between the diffuse focused way and, and the best one if this takes place of form distributed in the time (this entrance remembers exceeds how to space reviews intelligently).

The wonderful thing to know the diffuse way is to realize of which you do not need to crush itself during hours and hours when you have been a reasonable time studying a subject and you do not finish understanding it well.

In a situation thus, more of a student it begins to say itself €œIt is that I am idiot or what? €, €œHow it is possible that it does not understand this subject€, €œCertainly my friendly go more advanced€, and the only solution that sees is to continue studying the same subject; or to change to the following subject with the terrible conviction that the things are going bad€¦ YOU DO NOT DO THIS, BECAUSE IT DOES NOT WORK.

On the contrary, it uses these 3 steps:

Step 1. -Focusedstudyofeachsubject with the suitable material: your notes, the slides of the professor, an atlas of consultation, and an alternative source of consultation if a book is precise (; or also, for example, for subjects of Anatomy, the videos of professor Leonardo Coscarelli in Youtube are worn out gold)

Step 2. -Yourdiffusethoughtrestsandactivates. If after working during 2 hours, you follow without understanding the subject that you are working, your diffuse way will continue giving him returned to the concepts while you take a deserved good rest.

According to Barbara Oakley, these are the best activators of diffuse thought, while they allow you to rest of the realised mental effort (2):

  • To go to the gymnasium
  • To throw some baskets of basketball or to play soccer
  • To run or to swim
  • To give a return in car
  • To draw
  • To listen to music
  • To sleep yes (, to sleep! The best activator known diffuse thought)
  • To play video-games
  • To chat with friends
  • To see a film or a chapter of series

Step 3. -Theproblematicsubjectbeforereviews12hourshave passedfromthesessionofinitialstudy. This can later take place several hours, perhaps at the end of the day, or to the morning following after one night of dream. It is enough time so that your conscious mind has stopped reflecting on the problematic concepts; but not as much time as to forget the flashes understanding that will be appearing on the question.

With this method you will verify how you are gaining more clarity on the difficult matter. If after the review you continue having doubts, you will have to program more reviews in later days, or to consult with a classmate or a tutor. The slightly different vision that each we have on the subjects that we studied can help to clarify what eras you definitively able not to understand at first.



  1. Andrews-Hanna Jr The brain's default network and its adaptive role in internal mentation. Neuroscientist 2012; 18(3): 251-70.
  2. Barbara Oakley. To for Mind Numbers. Version translated in Opens Your Mind to the Numbers (PERSONAL ENVIRONMENT)



Almudena Trinidad

I am otorrinolaring³loga doctor in a hospital of Madrid and Professor Asociada de Medicina in the UAM. I help Medicine students to develop more effective techniques of study to obtain better notes, to remember during more time and to feel like more happy insurances and with its studies.

3 Commentaries
  • Irene
    Published to 08:03 h, 25 April To respond

    Totally certain. In fact, often that no longer I can more with a subject, change of subject and soon I return. Just as in the examination type test! And it has really worked to me often. Very good entrance, I am very fan of the blog! Thank you very much, always it comes well to remember these things to put them in practice.

  • Maribel
    Published to 06:26 h, 15 May To respond

    I made the course of Barbara Oakley in the coursera and am very happy, I apply it in my day to day, for any thing that wants to learn or my work. One of the methods that I apply is to make a review than I am working before sleeping, in the morning I have new ideas and more assimilated the concepts.
    Thank you very much by this post and the connections!

    • Almudena Trinidad
      Published to 11:40 h, 18 May To respond

      Thanks to you to pass you through the blog 🙂

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