Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Resting your mind strengthens your memories - 1.27.10

Our memories are strengthened during periods of rest while we are awake, researchers at New York University have found. The findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Neuron, expand our understanding of how memories are boosted—previous studies had shown this process occurs during sleep, but not during times of awake rest.

"Taking a coffee break after class can actually help you retain that information you just learned," explained Lila Davachi, an assistant professor in NYU's Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, in whose laboratory the study was conducted. "Your brain wants you to tune out other tasks so you can tune in to what you just learned."

The study, whose lead author was Arielle Tambini, a doctoral candidate in NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Science, focused on memory consolidation—the period when a memory is stabilized after it is initially created, or encoded. To determine if memory consolidation occurred during periods of awake rest, the researchers imaged the hippocampus, a brain structure known to play a significant role in memory, and cortical regions during periods of awake rest. Previous studies have demonstrated regions of the brain more active during periods of rest, but their function at these times had been unclear.

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