Just Flip the Switch and You Will Remember
Have you ever starred at a page on a textbook and realized that no matter how hard you tried you knew the information just wasn’t getting imprinted in your memory bank? Well I have. However it may not be any fault of your own, it was rather a matter of whether you are in the right state of mind. (No I’m not talking about inebriation) Researchers have found a neurological signal that is triggered when the brain is suited for memorizing. “Instead of looking at how the information is being processed, we’re looking at how the brain prepares to process the information,” said study co-author Emrah Duzel, a neuroscientist at University College, London.
Some studies have shown that there are numerous signals and substantial neuro-activity during the encoding period of memory, while others have shown signals that precede the formation of certain memories. However, there was a recent study conducted that showed that there is a specific signal that precedes the formation of all types of memory—visual, sensory, verbal, etc. Researchers believe that this signal acts more like a switch than a process that is constantly working. This is because the brain simply does not have the capacity to remember everything we experience in our lives. (Some may think that would be cool, but on the contrary it is not necessary to remember that you poured the last drop of milk into your cereal at precisely 9:14:37am)
The brain is designed to process information that is subjectively important to our lives. It may be important for some to remember where the Post Office is, whereas others are more concerned with where the H&M is. This is why Duzel’s team used a magneto encephalograph to record and analyze the magnetic fluctuation of 24 test subjects during various memory tests. This was done in order to pinpoint the exact moment before each test subject processed information that was later recalled. The results were increased levels of “theta oscillations”. For those non-science people, theta waves regularly occur during deep REM sleep (when your dreaming) and moments of alertness. These signals appear to be localized in the hippocampus—where short-term memory is processed. However, when observing these waves during the experiment, they were localized in the medial temporal lobe (which is fairly close to the hippocampus).
Now wouldn’t it be cool if there were am app that measured our theta oscillations. If this app were made, we would be able to predict whether or not our brains are in the right state—emitting sufficient theta waves—to remember information. So next time you find yourself starring at a textbook page, try your hardest to get your theta waves moving, because otherwise you might as well be putting placing water into a bucket with holes at the bottom.
Questions, comments, something you forgot.