When it comes to improving your memory, experts say it’s all about rest.
As reported by CNN, researchers gathered a small group of “normally aging” elderly men and women, and asked them to recount as many details from two stories as they could.
Following the first story, participants were asked to relax and close their eyes in a dark room for 10 minutes. Researchers then asked participants to point out the differences in several pairs of near identical images.
Researchers found that overall, participants recounted far more details after they had rested; and that their memory boost held up even a full week after the initial trial.
Previous research has showed that small periods of rest – even a few minutes – are beneficial to both memory and alertness. But this new study points to the effectiveness of short periods of rest for “long-term memory consolidation.”
Research fellow and lead study author, Michaela Dewar, points out that when we first encounter new information, we’re likely in an early stage of memory formation. “Further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time,” she said.
Related research involving rats has shown that if given idle time after going through a maze, the subjects can re-play the events that just happened in their minds. And according to past brain scans on humans, our brains do the same thing without us even having to think about it. And this type of brain function has been linked to memory retention.
Scientists have found through various research studies that sleep can benefit both “declarative memory,” which is useful for recalling facts, and “procedural memory,” which comes into play when we try and recall how to do things, such as riding a bike or tying our shoes.
Still other memory-related studies have blamed such things as high fructose corn syrup and an improper diet for less-than-perfect memory performance, while others have said high fat foods, cutting calories and even weight loss surgery are what benefit our minds.
But if the true secret to improved memory function is rest, the fact remains that we aren’t a society that naturally takes breaks. Everyone seems to be on the go constantly without any time to stop. But perhaps if we recognize the benefits of adequate sleep and small spurts of rest, we’ll begin to take more care in this area. I, for one, am slightly more inclined to the idea of an afternoon nap considering it might benefit my memory function in the long run.
August 8th, 2012