Ever wonder why you forget things and remember others? What if I told you that just as your brain has certain signals for how to remember things, it also has certain signals to tell it what to forge? This information, coming from Lund University in Sweden has been supported by some compelling research. There are several reasons why your brain may forget information but it boils down to a simple concept — when you brain has one stimulus it tends to remember the information associated with this stimulus. In cases with multiple stimuli, you may forget because your brain does not know what to “assign” the association to. This information can change the way you learn and update the way teachers educate their students.
Examples of Mechanisms to Help Learn
After looking at the research conducted from Lund University, I realized it began a little bit like Pavlov’s study where he conditioned his dogs to salivate at the anticipation of food. At Lund University, they wanted to see if animals could learn to associate a certain tone or light pattern to a puff of air blown into their eye. The air buff in their eye causes the reaction of a blink. Therefore, eventually the tone or the light would make the animal or human blink before the puff had even been triggered. They found much like Pavlov’s dogs, this did work. When either the light or the tone was played the conditioning took affect and the subjects blinked as expected.
The scientists then did something a little different with the study. Instead of having one stimulus, they decided to have a tone and the light signal at the same time. Some would think that this would reinforce the conditioning now that there were two things “warning” of the impending air puff. The result was somewhat surprising. Amazingly, the subjects were less likely to react to the two stimuli put together. The results got worse instead of better when there were two “warnings” given to the subjects.
As explained by one of the Swedish brain researchers: “Two stimuli therefore achieve worse results than just one. It seems contrary to common sense, but we believe that the reason for it is that the brain wants to save energy.”
The “Energy-Saving Brain”
Maintaining the pathways through the brain for both the tone and the light takes more energy than only having one. It is believed therefore that the brain temporarily lets go of the information. Basically, when two pathways are developed the pathways put on the brakes in the brain. It’s like an “I thought you were going to take care of it.” “No, I thought you had this” type of conversation between the two pathways that result in freezing up.
The Lund researchers were able to show how nerve cells learn and forget through animals, but think humans should probably be the same. The two stimuli simultaneously activate neurons which stop the activity.
What Does This Mean in Practical Use?
In practical use, this information could help teachers to learn how best to present information, so they aren’t accidentally shutting off learning mechanisms while teaching. Students might find this information very valuable. Knowing how to best study and retain information would be valuable. If scientist can figure out how the pathways are shut off by stimuli or outside things, than it’s reasonable to assume that they can find what turns them on. Imagine being able to attend school and knowing exactly what will make the information stick! The potential impact of this information is significant!
This information and more is available here.
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