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Scientists Discover Why It Is Necessary For Our Brains To Forget What We Learn

Scientists Discover Why It Is Necessary For Our Brains To Forget What We Learn

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.

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The Twist

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.”

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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.

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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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Featured photo credit: Ollyy via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on June 24, 2019

Why Social Media Might Be Causing Depression

Why Social Media Might Be Causing Depression

A study [1] published in Depression and Anxiety found that social media users are more likely to be depressed. This was just one of the huge number of studies linking social media and depression[2] . But why exactly do platforms like Facebook and Instagram make people so unhappy? Well, we don’t know yet for sure, but there are some explanations.

Social Media Could Lead to Depression

Depression is a serious medical condition that affects how you think, feel, and behave. Social media may lead to depression in predisposed individuals or make existing symptoms of depression[3] worse explains[4] the study above’s senior author Dr. Brian Primack. So, the problem may not be in social media per se, but how we use it.

Signs You’re Suffering From “Social Media Depression”

If you feel like social media is having a negative impact on your mood, then you may be suffering from “social media depression.” Look for symptoms like:

• low self-esteem,

• negative self-talk,

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• a low mood,

• irritability,

• a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed,

• and social withdrawal.

If you’ve had these symptoms for more than two weeks and if this is how you feel most of the time, then you are likely depressed. Although “social media depression “is not a term recognized in the medical setting, social media depression seems to be a real phenomenon affecting around 50% of social media users. As explained in a review study[5] published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, if a person has a certain predisposition to depression and other mental disorders, social media use may only worsen their mental health.

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Social Media Could Crush Self-Esteem

We know that social media and depression are in some way linked, but why is this so? Well, according to Igor Pantic, MD, Ph.D.[6], social media use skews your perception about other people’s lives and traits. To explain this further, most people like to portray an idealized image of their lives, personal traits, and appearance on sites like Facebook and Instagram. If you confuse this idealized image with reality, you may be under the false impression that everyone is better than you which can crush your self-esteem and lead to depression. This is especially true for teens and young adults who are more likely to compare themselves to others. If you already suffer from low self-esteem, the illusion that everyone has it better off than you will just make you feel worse.

Causing Social Isolation and Other Negative Emotions

Another commonly cited reason for the negative impact of social media on mental health is its link with social isolation. Depressed people are more likely to isolate themselves socially and chose only to interact indirectly through social media platforms. But communication online tends to be superficial and is lacking when compared to real-life interaction explains Panic. What this means is not that social media leads to isolation but the other way around, possibly explaining why we find so many depressed persons on these sites.

Lastly, social media use may generate negative emotions in you like envy, jealousy, dislike, loneliness, and many others and this may worsen your depressive symptoms.

Why We Need to Take This Seriously

Both depression and social media use are on the rise according to epidemiological studies. Since each one has an impact on the other, we have to start thinking of healthier ways to use social media. Teens and young adults are especially vulnerable to the negative impact of social media on mental health.

Advice on Social Media Use

Although these findings did not provide any cause-effect explanation regarding Facebook and depression[7], they still do prove that social media use may not be a good way to handle depression. For this reason, the leading authors of these studies gave some suggestions as to how clinicians and people can make use of such findings.

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One suggestion is that clinicians should ask patients about their social media habits. Then they can advise them on how to change their outlook on social media use or even suggest limiting their time spent on social media.

Some social media users may also exhibit addictive behavior; they may spend too much time due to compulsive urges. Any compulsive behavior is bound to lead to feelings of guilt which can worsen depressive symptoms.

Having Unhealthy Relationship with Social Media

If you feel like your relationship with social media is unhealthy, then consider the advice on healthy social media use provided by psychology experts from Links Psychology[8]:

Avoid negative social comparison – always keep in mind that how people portray themselves and their lives on social media is not a realistic picture, but rather an idealized one. Also, avoid comparing yourself to others because this behavior can lead to negative self-talk.

Remember that social media is not a replacement for real life – Social media is great for staying in touch and having fun, but it should never replace real-world interactions.

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Avoid releasing personal information – For your safety and privacy, make sure to be careful with what you post online.

Report users who bully and harass you – It’s easy to be a bully in the anonymous and distant world of social media. Don’t take such offense personally and report those who abuse social media to harass others.

The bits of advice listed above can help you establish a healthy relationship with social media. Always keep these things in mind to avoid losing an objective perspective of what social media is and how it is different from real life. If you are currently suffering from depression, talk to your doctor about what is bothering you so that you can get the treatment you need to get better. Tell your doctor about your social media use and see if they could give you some advice on this topic.

Reference

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