• Rita Hitching

#TeenBrainHackSleepandPractice Repeating a task is key to learning and sleeping key to memorizing it

Are you wanting to improve your memory? Learn a new task, like driving? Learning a new language or instrument? Research just published on the way that memories are stored and retrieved can shed some light on the best way to speed up learning and memory. The hippocampus, you have 2, located beneath each temple, named due to its resemblance to a seahorse, plays a critical role in turning your experiences and turning them into memories. The hippocampus creates new memories by forming new connections between neurons. Now that you know the science, let me give you a brain hack on how to optimize it so that you can master new skills or gain new knowledge more effectively.

Learning practice a task and then sleep.
Practice and Sleep Key to Learning New Skills and Knowledge

Your teenage brain is glorious - if you didn’t know that already. Neuroscience has shown that the brain goes through critical periods of growth and development - while in the womb, the first year of life, and the early years; right into adulthood. What scientists have more recently discovered is that the brain undergoes a 'secret mission' of change during the period between the ages of 12 to 19 years that is truly unique.

Research is showing how the brain learns and converts that knowledge to memory. Basically, the hippocampus replays a behavior until it is internalized, and factors in previous decisions / actions and their outcomes - worth repeating or not. Repetition is key to increasing the level of importance that the brain places on a task.

While you may think that sleep means your brain is not doing much, the opposite it's true - the brain gets busy while you sleep and sorts out what is worth keeping from your interactions during the day. The process of replaying experiences in order to learn happens while you sleep. The replaying of actions to lock into memory applies to spatial (places where you've been) and mental actions (thoughts and decisions made). Sleep filters out what is worth remembering in the future, based on what you did in the past. Repetition is key to increasing the level of importance that the brain places on a task. In addition, research has supported the findings that exercises facilitate the process of learning and memory.

The take-home message to learn a new skill or task is to - exercise, practice a task, sleep - repeat.

Read the original research: "Sequential replay of nonspatial task states in the human hippocampus". Nicolas W. Schuck and Yael Niv. Science, Jun 28, 2019