Take breaks from work & study to remember (research link)

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(Josh Cohen) #2

Here’s an excerpt:

Our group and others have demonstrated that a 15-min period of eyes-closed rest following encoding enhances memory for both procedural and declarative memory tasks, compared to an equivalent period spent completing a distractor task. Other recent studies have demonstrated that post-learning rest enhances subsequent memory for spatial and temporal information, facilitates insight into a complex problem, and enhances auditory sta- tistical learning. These memory effects can be maintained for a week or more after the rest intervention. Together, these observations suggest that even during wakefulness, memory is preferentially consolidated during offline states characterized by reduced attentional demands.

There’s a similar article over here:

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(Josh Cohen) #3

Here’s another one about memory consolidation during short, 10-second breaks: Want to learn a new skill? Take some short breaks.

The waves were recorded from right-handed volunteers with a highly sensitive scanning technique called magnetoencephalography. The subjects sat in a chair facing a computer screen and under a long cone-shaped brain scanning cap. The experiment began when they were shown a series of numbers on a screen and asked to type the numbers as many times as possible with their left hands for 10 seconds; take a 10 second break; and then repeat this trial cycle of alternating practice and rest 35 more times. This strategy is typically used to reduce any complications that could arise from fatigue or other factors.

As expected, the volunteers’ speed at which they correctly typed the numbers improved dramatically during the first few trials and then leveled off around the 11th cycle. When Dr. Bönstrup looked at the volunteers’ brain waves she observed something interesting.

“I noticed that participants’ brain waves seemed to change much more during the rest periods than during the typing sessions,” said Dr. Bönstrup. “This gave me the idea to look much more closely for when learning was actually happening. Was it during practice or rest?”

By reanalyzing the data, she and her colleagues made two key findings. First, they found that the volunteers’ performance improved primarily during the short rests, and not during typing. The improvements made during the rest periods added up to the overall gains the volunteers made that day. Moreover, these gains were much greater than the ones seen after the volunteers returned the next day to try again, suggesting that the early breaks played as critical a role in learning as the practicing itself.

Second, by looking at the brain waves, Dr. Bönstrup found activity patterns that suggested the volunteers’ brains were consolidating, or solidifying, memories during the rest periods.