To Boost Memory, Shut Your Eyes and Relax

TIME:

Forget brain-training exercises, 12-hour shifts and those long, uninterrupted, caffeine-fueled study binges. When you really need new information to sink in, you can’t skimp on taking breaks, new research suggests.

That’s the message from a soon-to-be-published study by psychologists and neuroscientists at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, who asked a small group of normally aging elderly men and women to recall as many details as possible from two stories they were told. Following one of the stories (but not always the same one for all the participants), the men and women were instructed to relax, take a brief break and close their eyes for 10 minutes in a dark room. Following the other story, those same participants were instead distracted with a new task, spotting the differences between pairs of nearly identical images. Overall, the study participants remembered many more details of whichever story they heard before they were told to rest — and their striking memory boost persisted even a full week out after the story-telling.

Take heed, students, doctors and anyone else who has to process large amounts of information: the elderly may worry most about memory, but given what we know about how memories form, these new findings have implications for people of all ages.

Previous research has already shown that both the young and the old have better recall of, say, a list of words if they’re allowed to rest for a few minutes in between learning the words and then regurgitating them. What this latest study adds, however, is evidence that a few minutes of wakeful rest may have an effect even on long-term memory consolidation.

Read the whole story: TIME

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