Researchers have found that the brain’s ability to rehearse or repeat electrical impulses may be absolutely critical to making a newly acquired memory more permanent.
The discovery may help to explain why memory improves after a short nap or a night’s sleep.
Dr. Clayton Dickson, a psychology professor at the University of Alberta, likened the process to someone trying to permanently memorize a phone number, “We repeat the number several times to ourselves, so hopefully we can automatically recall it when needed.”
Dickson, the lead researcher on the project, said that nerve cells or neurons likely rehearse the process for recalling newly installed memories by using the brain’s downtime to send and resend signals back and forth, establishing well-practiced synaptic connections.
“Those connections allow the brain to retrieve the memories and rehearsal ensures that they last for a long time,” said Dickson.
“It was previously thought that only biochemical processes like protein synthesis were important for solidifying memories.”
Dickson believes exploration of this process could be used to improve an individual’s memory and possibly as a tool to delete negative or post-traumatic memories.
Source: University of Alberta