Research claims breaks make for better memory

Total recall may not be as complicated as science fiction thrillers would have us believe. Novel evidence presented in a University of Edinburgh study — set for release soon — suggests that those who don’t forget to take breaks also don’t forget much else.

A team of psychologist and neuroscientists at the Scottish institution involved a small group of elderly men and women in an experiment meant to gauge memory retention practices. Subjects were told two stories and then asked to recount the tales in as much detail as memory permitted. Both stories were relayed in a normal setting, but following one of the accounts (not always the same one for every participant) a brief 10-minute break period was instituted where partakers were instructed to close their eyes in a dark room and relax before they reiterated the anecdote. Generally, subjects were able to remember more details of whichever story was followed by the period of respite. This meticulous memorization lasted for up to a full week after story time for most participants.

Although the study was conducted amongst seniors, the findings are said to transcend demographic divides. Experts supplemented the study’s implications with urgent pleas for students, doctors and other subsets of the population who are required to process information in abundance to take the outcome to bed and to heart. Thus, not only should physicians remind their patients to lower thier lids temporarily during the day, but hold themselves and other doctors to that same standard. 

With other papers relating sleep to memory consolidation cropping up across the headboard, the report certainly isn’t lying alone in an unmade cot. Rat research has uncovered a unique re-play function present within the brains of most animals; human brain scans have confirmed that this asset is likely to exist within our species as well. Reasons such as these could explain why infants spend a majority of their young lives at rest, experts say.

“In this day and age of information overload there are few opportunities to sit back and rest,” Michaela Dewar, research fellow and first author of the study, wrote.

Dewar and her colleagues suggested that proper increments of shut-eye, whether wakeful or otherwise, are necessary to keep one’s memory up to snuff. A couple breaks over the course of the workday may not elevate one to elephant status, but in an age where the devil’s in the details, it certainly doesn’t hurt to retain and maintain a sharp mind.  

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