Previously, scientists have found that resting the mind – or daydreaming – contributes to strengthening memories of events and the storage of information. However, the new study suggests that this kind mental rest not only helps consolidate memories, but also improves future learning. The researchers assigned the participants in the study two learning tasks in which they were required to memorize different series of associated photo pairs.
A new study, which may have implications for approaches to education, finds that brain mechanisms engaged when people allow their minds to rest and reflect on things they've learned before may boost later learning.
Scientists have already established that resting the mind, as in daydreaming, helps strengthen memories of events and retention of information. In a new twist, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have shown that the right kind of mental rest, which strengthens and consolidates memories from recent learning tasks, helps boost future learning.
Image: The patterns of brain activity recorded in this fMRI scanner revealed how mental rest and reflection on past learning activities can boost future learning. Photo credit: Jeff Luci.
The results appear online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Margaret Schlichting, a graduate student researcher, and Alison Preston, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, gave participants in …
“A professor might first get them thinking about the properties of electricity,” suggests Preston. “Not necessarily in lecture form, but by asking questions to get students to recall what they already know.”
“Then, the professor might begin the lecture on neuronal communication,” she continues. “By prompting them beforehand, the professor might help them reactivate relevant knowledge and make the new material more digestible for them.”
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