May 21, 2024

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What to do to “help” the brain to learn new things, why perseverance is not enough

What to do to “help” the brain to learn new things, why perseverance is not enough

To learn something new, you have to practice, you have to train, you have to practice, common sense says, that training “makes perfect”.

But many scientific studies show it Intermittent training may not be the best way to learn a new skill: The brain needs spaces to integrate newly acquired knowledge and transform it from an intermediate memory into a lasting memory.

One of the most recent innovations is that short intervals interspersed with activities can lead to greater learning gains: The brain takes advantage of these gaps to “re-activate” what it has learned. Strengthening the newly acquired capacity.

These short breaks are especially beneficial for the brain of the trainer New, small, repetitive movementsSuch as athletes or musicians or patients trying to regain lost skills after a stroke (see later article).

“Imagine a scene where a person learns to read a new song on the piano,” explains Brazilian researcher Leonardo Gladino, co-author of a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). BBC News Brazil. ) From the United States and published in Cell Reports Magazine in 2021.

“During the break we found out, The brain repeats a version 50 times faster The movements used to play the song over and over again strengthen the connection of the neurons in the areas associated with that new memory, ”he adds.

In that study, Claudino and other NIH researchers recorded the brain activity of 33 right-handed volunteers who learned to type a sequence of numbers with their left hand on a keyboard.

Volunteers should write as many series as possible for ten seconds, and then take a ten-second break.

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Some members of the same research team, led by scientist Marilyn Bonstrub, have already noted in previous studies, After a short break, the volunteers improved their speed and accuracy They typed number sequences of this type.

The goal now We need to understand what is going on in the brain in this process.

Furthermore, using magnetoencephalography experiments, scientists were able to observe a rapid “repeat” of what the brain had just learned.

“And we found that (consolidation) happens much faster than previously thought,” says Leonardo Gladino.

“Two-second capacity repeats in milliseconds across the brain.”

By making these “representatives”, Integrates brain learning.

This technique of leisure time is suitable for those studying in college or university because it helps to emphasize knowledge better.Shutterstock – Shutterstock

Even before studying the effect of these short pauses, scientists already knew that the brain needed rest to integrate memories.

In practice, according to scientific knowledge so far, this refers Transfers memory from the hippocampusThe most durable memory is found in the neocortex areas, where temporary records are kept.

But until these latest discoveries, Believed to be only during sleepThis coordination process occurs when the brain is freed from external sensory stimuli.

With new studies, Claudino points out, it can be felt Memories are practically integrated almost simultaneously, The process that complements what happens when we sleep.

But this is something that needs to be confirmed by further research.

“Much is not yet known, and they are certainly physiologically different. (…) but may be Dreaming refers to a complete experience: The whole environment (of that memory), who they were, how the environment was “, says Leonardo Claudino.

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“A quick pause will record more minute details: coordination between fingers while typing, movement. One hypothesis is that someone should investigate in the future. “

If so, how can the scientific knowledge accumulated up to now be put into practice?

“I see more direct use when I think about it Sports or music practices, Includes sessions in which the athlete or artist performs the same movement multiple times, “explains Claudino.

“The lesson to keep in mind is this: When you begin to learn a new technique, avoid practicing until you are tired and failing. Instead, it is better to relax,” he says.

Completeness comes faster if you give the brain time to integrate (learn) instead I train tirelessly for perfection. “

“Usually we learn by repeating a new technique, repetitive, repetitive, you know the sequences of movements that eventually make up the final process.”

“Everyone does it ten times, for example, instead of training until they are tired. Then rest and start again “.

The same rationale will guide teaching practices in schools or universities.

“In a teaching context, perhaps the teacher, basically introducing a new concept, can think of the learning session as covering these gaps,” the researcher explained.

“It’s not It is important that the student has these rest periodsThis is our invention because it relaxes and keeps your brain active. Your hippocampus and cortex will make these exchanges, which will integrate the latest learning, ”he says.

What more The best time to take a break is not sure For optimal integration of new learning.

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“This is one of the challenges of practical application,” says Gladino, recalling It depends on the type of skill learned and the individual characteristics of each trainer.

But in NIH studies, researchers found that when volunteers typed rows on a keyboard, the learning gain was greater when training and breaks were the same length.

For example, Ten minutes of training and ten minutes of rest.

However, Gladino points out that these are restricted studies carried out in the laboratory, and therefore his results They do not need to be translated exactly to real life.

The idea of ​​brain fractures also applies to athletes who train new movements.
The idea of ​​brain fractures also applies to athletes who train new movements.

Because the tests take place in a completely controlled environment, it becomes difficult to come up with a “recipe” for a more efficient pause for the brain to learn.

In the case of laboratory studies, during the break, each volunteer stood still without typing on the computer.

In real life, the researcher It suggests that the brain should take a break from what it is learning.

“I imagine that if a person learns to read a song, (pause) would simply stop playing. Think of something else or do nothing else Can interfere with it; For example, when you retire from the first song, do not try to learn another song because you are using the same parts and skills, “he explains.

Other research has contributed to the science of learning and provides complementary results that help integrate knowledge.

In an interview with BBC News Brazil in 2020, the cognitive psychology researcher Barbara Oakley, author of the book “Learning to Learn”The brain functions in two different ways, complementing each other in learning.

One The Focusing method (For example, when we focus on an exercise, movie or teacher) and Distribution method (When the brain is at rest).

According to Oakley, To learn effectively the brain must switch between a diffuse and focused mode.

Relaxing the mind, taking a walk or changing activities directly helps to improve learning and problem solving.

“When you are Stuck in a math homework, The best thing you can do is shift the focus and study some geography. That way, you can get back to when you’re back to math, ”Oakley suggested.

Going back to Leonardo Gladino’s research, focusing on the study of memory integration during short breaks can help individuals recover their abilities. After a cerebrovascular accident.

This can happen, in the future, to maximize the rehab sessions.

“We now have a biological indicator of when the brain integrates capacity and where it occurs,” the scientist explains.

“When a person is in occupational therapy or in neurostimulation or neuromodulation technique, we can think about creating a monitoring system that maximizes recurrences of that system skill.”

This is the optimal brain stimulus Rehabilitation can give quick results, Says Claudine.

The brain rearranges and integrates everything learned during the rest period
The brain rearranges and integrates everything learned during the rest periodGetty Images

Our results suggest that improving the timing and structure of rest breaks can be important when providing rehabilitation treatment for stroke sufferers or learning to play the piano among casual volunteers. NIH, Leonardo Cohen.

They are, for now, Research fields still open, Adds Leonardo Gladino. It is important to understand that Even at leisure, the brain does not stop learning.

“What is against common sense is that when you are calm, your brain is not calm. We still understand this phenomenon, but (during these pauses) you occupy your brain with less stimuli and the production of movement,” he adds.

“So, you give him that opportunity to integrate what he has already learned.”

By Paula Adamo Idoda.