Popular methods to improve skill learning and information retention span from legit to bizarre, some more effective than others. Getting enough sleep is a common, perhaps crucial element — lack of sleep makes it hard to concentrate and may decrease how much info one remembers. New research hints that a simple related activity may have a greater impact, helping individuals learn new skills and remember what they’ve been studying.
Improving skill learning may be as simple as resting for a short time after studying or practicing, a new study has found. These breaks don’t need to last very long, at least based on experiments detailed in the study. Rather, resting frequently for short periods of time may speed up the rate at which individuals master activities or remember new information.
The study comes from the National Institutes of Health. During the research, volunteers’ brain waves were recorded using magnetoencephalography while they typed a series of numbers that were presented on a computer screen. The subjects had to type the numbers as many times as possible in 10 seconds, then take a 10 second break, followed by typing again. This working/resting cycle was repeated 35 times.
Using the recorded data, researchers noted that volunteers’ brain waves changed considerably during the brief resting periods compared to the typing periods. Evidence indicated the volunteers’ brains were consolidating the information from the typing sessions during the brief resting periods, and that improvements were made during those breaks.
Talking about the research was study senior author Leonardo G. Cohen, MD, Ph.D, who said:
Our results suggest that it may be important to optimize the timing and configuration of rest intervals when implementing rehabilitative treatments in stroke patients or when learning to play the piano in normal volunteers. Whether these results apply to other forms of learning and memory formation remains an open question.