Brain mechanism for creating durable memories

Brain mechanism for creating durable memories

Rehearsing information immediately after being given it may be all you need to make it a permanent memory, a study published in J. Neuroscience suggests.

The study showed that the brain region known as the posterior cingulate – an area whose damage is often seen in those with Alzheimer’s – plays a crucial role in creating permanent memories.

This region not only helps us to recall the episodic details of an event but also integrates the memory into our knowledge and understanding, which makes it resistant to forgetting.

The study involved showing participants 26 short videos of clips taken from YouTube of around 40 seconds in length with a narrative element.  For example, one called “nasty neighbours” depicted two men playing practical jokes on each other.  

For 20 of the videos, the participants were given around 40 seconds after each video to relate either in their heads or out loud details of the video.  For the remaining six videos, this rehearsal period was not given.

Up to two weeks later, participants were still able to recall many details of the videos they had rehearsed, whereas the non-rehearsed videos were largely forgotten.

“We know that recent memories are susceptible to being lost until a period of consolidation has elapsed. In this study we have shown that a brief period of rehearsal has a huge effect on our ability to remember complex, lifelike events over periods of 1-2 weeks” says the lead researcher.