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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Novel Stimuli May Help Memory

In a study on the neurochemical effects of novel stimuli during learning, a group at University College of London found that the brain’s reward-system neurons respond better to novel stimuli than to ordinary stimuli. That is, novel stimuli can have rewarding properties, and thus make us pay more attention to them. In the purely behavioral aspects of their study, subjects viewing a succession of visual images were able to remember more of them if an occasional new image was presented. For a fuller exploration of the implications, go to my posting on this piece of research.

But be careful. Novel stimuli can also be a distraction and have marked interference effects on consolidation. Learn about consolidation and interference in my book.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sleep loss impairs memory BEFORE learning

I just came back from the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. One of the papers presented there reported experiments showing that depriving college students of sleep impaired their ability to remember what they learn the following day. I have the details at my Web site.

Earlier posts at my Web site explain research that sleep loss impairs memory of events that occurred during that same day. Now, this research shows "proactive" impairment. We professors always knew that pulling "all nighters" where students stay up all night to study for an exam made them do dumb things on an exam. Now we know that this sleep loss impairs not only what they learned the day before but also what they are supposed to learn the next day. When will students learn that?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Book of essays on working memory

I just ran across a book by Nelson Cowan on working memory, published in 2005 by Psychology Press. It is available from Amazon for $44.95. It is probably scholarly and not intended for a general audience. I ordered a copy and will let you know what I think about it.

Bill Klemm
"Memory Medic"