Scientists have already established that resting the mind, as in daydreaming, helps strengthen memories of events and retention of information, but in a new twist, UT Austin researchers have found that the right kind of mental rest and reflection can actually help boost future learning.
How our brains capture and store new information is heavily influenced by allowing our minds to rest and reflect on what we already know, according to a study co-authored by Alison Preston, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, and Margaret Schlichting, a graduate student researcher. Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We think replaying memories during rest makes those earlier memories stronger, not just impacting the original content, but impacting the memories to come,” Preston says.
“Nothing happens in isolation,” Preston adds. “When you are learning something new, you bring to mind all of the things you know that are related to that new information. In doing so, you embed the new information into your existing knowledge.”
Until now, many scientists assumed that prior memories are more likely to interfere with new learning. This new study shows that at least in some situations, the opposite is true.