Researchers hyperlink poor reminiscence to consideration lapses and media multitasking
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The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but they can also provide revealing insights into memory. Stanford scientists can now use their neural activity and pupil size to predict whether an individual will remember or forget.
“As we navigate our lives, we have these times when we are frustrated because we are unable to bring knowledge to mind and express what we know,” said Anthony Wagner, Lucie Stern Professor of Social Sciences at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences. “Fortunately, science now has tools that we can use to explain why moment by moment an individual may not remember something that is stored in their memory.”
Not only did the team of scientists investigate why people sometimes remember and sometimes forget, they also wanted to understand why some of us remember better than others and how media multitasking could be a factor.
The study, published in this week’s issue of Nature, begins to answer these fundamental questions that can impact memory disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, and lead to applications to attract people’s attention – and therefore memory – in daily life improve.
Student size and alpha power
To monitor attention deficit related to memory, 80 subjects between the ages of 18 and 26 had their pupils measured and their brain activity monitored via an electroencephalogram (EEG) – specifically the brain waves known as posterior alpha power – while they were Performed tasks such as getting or identifying changes to previously examined items.
“The increase in alpha performance in the back of the mind has been linked to attention disorders, wandering thoughts, distractibility, etc.,” said lead investigator Kevin Madore, a Stanford postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Memory Lab. “We also know that constrictions in pupil diameter – especially before performing various tasks – are related to poor performance, such as slower reaction times and more wandering thoughts.”
Differences in people’s ability to maintain attention were also measured by examining how well subjects were able to see a gradual change in an image, while media multitasking was assessed by having individuals report how well they could handle multiple media sources such as text messaging and television within a given hour. The researchers then compared memory performance between individuals and found that those with lower attentiveness and heavier media multitaskers performed worse on memory tasks.
Wagner and Madore emphasize that their work shows correlation, not causality. “We cannot say that heavy media multitasking causes difficulties with sustained attention and memory outages,” said Madore, “although we are increasingly learning more about the directions of interactions.” Prepare to remember
According to Wagner, one direction in which the field as a whole has moved is concentrating on what happens before learning or, as in this case, before remembering in general. That’s because memory relies heavily on purposeful perception – we essentially need to be ready to remember, attract attention, and have a memory goal in mind – in order to regain our memories.
“While it is logical that attention is important to learning and remembering, an important point here is that the things that happen before you remember will affect whether you can actually reactivate a memory that is relevant to your current goal is relevant or not. “said Wagner.
Some of the factors that affect memory preparation are already in our control and can therefore be used to aid in the recall. For example, through conscious awareness of attention, recall, and limitation of potential distractions, people can influence the way they think and change their surroundings to improve their memory performance. “Hacking” memory
While these relatively simple strategies can now be applied, the researchers note that there may be targeted attention training exercises or interventions that people can use to get involved. These are known as “closed-loop interventions” and are an active area of research.
For example, Wagner and Madore envision wearable eye sensors that detect attention deficits in real time based on pupil size. If the individual wearer can then be asked to direct his attention to the task at hand, the sensors can support learning or the retrieval of information.
Finally, advances in measuring states of attention and their effects on using goals as guides to remembering also hold the promise of better understanding of diseases or health conditions that affect memory. “We now have the opportunity,” said Wagner, “to study and understand how interactions between the networks of the brain that support attention, use of goals, and memory are related to individual differences in memory in older adults, both independently of as well as relating to Alzheimer’s disease. ”
Psychologists are researching why some older adults remember better than others
Memory failure due to loss of attention and media multitasking, Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-020-2870-z, www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2870-z Provided by Stanford University
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