How to Lock in Memories


Simply shutting your eyes and relaxing after learning something new may be the best way to remember it, reports.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh asked a group of healthy volunteers between the ages of 60 and 90 to listen to stories and try to remember as many details from them as possible. Then, some were asked to close their eyes for 10 minutes in a quiet room and daydream about anything they liked, while others were asked to play a computer game.

When it came time to recall what they’d heard—both 30 minutes afterward and a week afterward—the volunteers who had rested remembered far more details than those who hadn’t.

That suggests that “the formation of new memories is not completed” in mere seconds, and “that activities that we are engaged in for the first few minutes after learning new information” determine how well our brains absorb it, says study author Michaela Dewar.

Previous research has shown that sleep is radial to crystallizing memories, but taking a brief waking rest—without studying what you’ve learned or facing any external distractions—appears to return similarly beneficial results.