Researchers at New York University claim a mind at rest strengthens memories.
Published in the latest issue of the journal Neuron, the finding expands understanding of how memories are boosted-previous studies had shown this process occurs during sleep, but not during times of awake rest.
"Taking a coffee break after class can actually help you retain that information you just learned," explained Lila Davachi, an assistant professor in NYU's Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, in whose laboratory the study was conducted. "Your brain wants you to tune out other tasks so you can tune in to what you just learned."
The study, whose lead author was Arielle Tambini, a doctoral candidate in NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Science, focused on memory consolidation-the period when a memory is stabilized after it is initially created, or encoded. To determine if memory consolidation occurred during periods of awake rest, the researchers imaged the hippocampus, a brain structure known to play a significant role in memory, and cortical regions during periods of awake rest.
"Your brain is working for you when you're resting, so rest is important for memory and cognitive function," Davachi said. "This is something we don't appreciate much, especially when today's information technologies keep us working round-the-clock."