We all want to improve our memory. Forgetting someone’s name or where you put your car key is embarrassing and often a reflection of your mental capacity. We try to learn new tricks to remember things, like mnemonics or associations, which help. But the process of forming and recalling memory is complex, often leading these tricks to lose their effectiveness. New research into the science behind memory formation suggests that we should switch our strategies to a more effective one.
Identifying memory processes
Many years of research have revealed that it can be enhanced by different brain states. Novel experiences have a massive impact. Anything new and attention grabbing right before or after an event is considered novel.
Researchers from the University of Toronto, Canada, used fMRIs to identify how the brain triggers memory states. They discovered the regions of the brain that detect novelty. They then proceeded to test this region, demonstrating that novelty detection acts like a switch, changing how the brain learns and remembers.
“We find that familiarity increased retrieval of other unrelated memories but reduced the chances for memory formation. On the other hand, novelty enhanced the later formation of distinct memories without worrying about previous experiences,” said lead researcher Dr. Katherine Duncan.
The researchers go on to suggest that our memory strength does not dictate the ability to remember something. Instead, it depends on the state that you’re in now.
Using novelty to boost memory
Using this new knowledge on how memory formation occurs, the research team are trying to find new strategies to improve memory development. The development of memory tricks that utilize novelty can help people better remember faces, names, and places.
“We’ve just scratched the surface, yet we are already seeing links to disorders involving memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease. If we pin down the neurochemistry of these states, we may one day develop novel early warning tests and possibly, down the road, management strategies,” said Dr. Duncan.