New Study Says That Taking Breaks While Learning Can Actually Improve Your Memory


What do you mean cramming the entire syllabus one night before exams isn’t the way to go?

We all have heard how taking short breaks between studying helps to retain the information more than spending 2-3 consecutive hours on the same subject and getting minimal results. But what is the theory behind this? In the 19th century, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus published a book about memory and learning. He was the first to record the learning method known as the “spacing effect”.

The spacing effect is a cognitive phenomenon that suggests that long-term memory is enhanced when learning events are spaced over different intervals of time rather than grouped together. To understand this theory better with a practical example, researchers experimented with everyday memory tasks that were assigned to mice to see how their brains responded to the different time settings. The mice had to complete a chocolate hunt where they were given three different scenarios with the same location of the chocolate piece and they had to search for it. The initial results showed that for short-term memory, longer breaks between the chocolate hunt hindered the mices’ ability to remember the location. “Mice that were trained with the longer intervals between learning phases were not able to remember the position of the chocolate as quickly,” said Annet Glas, a neurobiologist working on the study from the Max Planck Institute. But interestingly enough, the next day, the mice were able to remember the position more quickly with longer pauses. The purpose of these experiments was to confirm that consecutive learning phases reactivate the same neural pathways but the complete opposite happened. Similar neuron activity patterns were only detected when there were longer breaks between the learning phases while short consecutive learning phases were present with different clusters of neuron activity.

This proves the theory that taking short breaks between learning and studying can strengthen the long-term memory as the spacing increases the strength of the neuron connectivity, making it easier to retain information later. If I had only utilized this theory in college…


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