Memory Science

The obvious take home is that onemakes the memory effort, just before having a nap and fall asleep while workingon the material.  Then on awakening,regurgitate the memory, perhaps by writing.

Make a habit of doing this everynight if that is possible.  From all thatone should be able to produce a trained memory.

I suspect that this approachcould make memory efforts far more rewarding and one will not be fighting thedrudgery of a lot of it.

Memories take hold better during sleep: study

January 24, 2011 by Marlowe Hood

The best way to not forget a newly learned poem, card trick or algebraequation may be to take a quick nap, scientists surprised by their own findingsreported.

The best way to not forget a newly learned poem, card trick or algebraequation may be to take a quick nap, scientists surprised by their own findingsreported Sunday.

In experiments, researchers in Germany showed that the brain isbetter during sleep than during wakefulness atresisting attempts to scramble or corrupt a recent memory.

Their study, published in Nature Neuroscience,provides new insights into the hugely complex process by which we store andretrieve deliberately acquired information -- learning, in short.

Earlier research showed that fresh memories, stored temporarily in aregion of the brain called the hippocampus, do not gelimmediately.

It was also known that reactivation of those memories soon afterlearning plays a crucial role in their transfer to more permanent storage inthe brain's "hard drive," the neocortex.

During wakefulness, however, this period of reactivation renders thememories more fragile.

Learning a second poem at this juncture, for example, will likely makeit harder to commit the first one to deep memory.

Bjorn Rasch of the University of Lubeckin Germanyand three colleagues assumed that the same thing happens when we sleep, anddesigned an experiment to find out if they were right.

Twenty-four volunteers were asked to memorise 15 pairs of cards showingpictures of animals and everyday objects. While performing the exercise, theywere exposed to a slightly unpleasant odour.

Forty minutes later, half the subjects who had stayed awake were askedto learn a second, slightly different pattern of cards.

Just before starting, they were again made to smell the same odour,designed to trigger their memory of the first exercise.

The 12 other subjects, meanwhile, did the second exercise after a briefsnooze, during which they were exposed to the odour while in a state calledslow-wave sleep. 

Both groups were then tested on the original task.

Much to the surprise of the researchers, the sleep group performedsignificantly better, retaining on average 85 percent of the patterns, comparedto 60 percent for those who had remained awake.

"Reactivation of memories had completely different effects on thestate of wakefulness and sleep," said lead author Susanne Diekelmann, alsofrom the University of Lubeck.

"Based on brain imaging data, we suggest the reason for thisunexpected result is that already during the first few minutes of sleep, thetransfer from hippocampus to neocortex has been initiated," she said in anemail exchange.

After only 40 minutes of shuteye, significant chunks of memory werealready "downloaded" and stored where they "could no longer bedisrupted by new information that is encoded in the hippocampus," sheexplained.

Diekelmann said the positive impact of short periods of sleep on memoryconsolidation could have implications for memory-intensive activities such aslanguage training.

The findings, she said, also point to a strategy for helping victims ofpost-traumatic stress syndrome, a debilitating condition caused by extremeexperiences.

The reactivation techniques "might prove useful in re-processingand un-learning unwanted memories," she said. "And reactivation ofnewly learned memories during ensuing sleep could then helpconsolidate the desired therapeutic effects for the long-term."

Diekelmann cautioned that computers are an imperfect metaphor for theway memories are stored in the brain.

"Human memory is absolutely dynamic. Memories are not statically'archived' in the neocortex but are subject to constant changes by variousinfluences," she said.

Likewise, the act of remembering does not simply entail"reading" the stored data, she added. "Recall is areconstructive process in which memories can be changed and distorted."

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