For those of you who think that taking breaks means ‘wasting time’, think again. Breaks are an excellent way to strengthen your memory after learning something new. Surely, most of will find that this phenomenon (of learning something new) is a daily thing. This was based on a study conducted by researchers at the New York University, and recently published in the January 28 issue of Neuron, a popular neuroscience scientific journal.
While sleep has been studied and found valuable as a way to preserve memories, less is known about how “active rest” (read: taking breaks) during the day may affect them, said Lila Davachi, an assistant professor of psychology at NYU.
In the first stage of the experiment, volunteers were shown a series of pictures in pairs, where a face was shown along with an object. For example, pictures of a ‘surfer’ and a beach ball were displayed together with the volunteer being asked how likely the person (the surfer) was likely to be holding the beach ball.
Immediately after showing these pictures, the participants were asked to take a break while observing their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), which indicated that the brain was ‘replaying’ these images during the phase of rest. This suggested, although not providing concrete evidence, that the brain was absorbing the memories of the ‘experience’.
After the rest period, the participants were given a memory test which indicated a better associative memory leading to the observation that it better to sit down and do nothing while waiting for the memory to ‘soak’ in instead of rushing off to on a coffee break, which could work as an interruption.
Perhaps, this finding will help scientists understand memory and how we can improve it as well.