Since time immemorial, rhythm is a fundamental trick when it comes to memorization. Now, a team of scientists has verified that our brain, on its particular scale, also takes advantage of rhythm to record memories.
A rhythmic pattern. According to new research led by researchers at the University of Rochester’s Department of Neuroscience and the Del Monte Neuroscience Institute, our brains use rhythmic activity patterns when trying to memorize things.
This means that, when it comes to memorizing something, instead of activating a region of our brain for as long as the exercise requires, what our brain does is “turn on and off” the neurons in this area with a determined periodicity .
“Rhythmic coordination of brain activity over time is important because it allows overlapping populations of neurons to store different pieces of information at the same time,” explains Ian Fiebelkorn, one of the authors of this research.
Avoid conflict. Details of the study were published in an article in the journal Current Biology. To reach their conclusions, the authors asked a group of participants in their experiment to perform a brief memory exercise while analyzing their brain processes through an electroencephalogram (EEG).
Thanks to this, the researchers could see how the intensity of the “internal representation” of the images that the participants were exposed to fluctuate over time. They were rhythmic fluctuations and on scales of less than a second.
“These rhythmic brain processes could also explain how we stay focused when multitasking, like trying to remember an address while driving a car,” adds Fiebelkorn. “Instead of focusing on these tasks simultaneously, we might switch between them on a sub-second time scale.”
Limited but important application. Unfortunately, this neurological trick won’t help us pass exams, but it can help us in other ways. In general, understanding how our brain works in general and our memory in particular can help us in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases that affect our memory, such as Alzheimer’s.
Beyond the theoretical, work like this could pave the way for the development of neural implants that help us combat problems associated with memory. Advances in this field have been important in this regard, although we are still far from results that can be applied on a daily basis.
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