您现在的位置: 纽约时报中英文网 >> 纽约时报中英文版 >> 健康 >> 正文

让大脑关机 轻轻松松改善记忆力

更新时间:2018/3/4 10:51:38 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

An effortless way to strengthen your memory
让大脑关机 轻轻松松改善记忆力

When trying to memorise new material, it’s easy to assume that the more work you put in, the better you will perform. Yet taking the occasional down time – to do literally nothing – may be exactly what you need. Just dim the lights, sit back, and enjoy 10-15 minutes of quiet contemplation, and you’ll find that your memory of the facts you have just learnt is far better than if you had attempted to use that moment more productively.

当我们试图记忆陌生的内容时,很容易想当然地认为:投入的精力越多,记忆的效果就越好。然而,间或的休整或许才是你真正所需要的。即几乎什么都不做,只要调暗灯光,坐下来,在宁静的冥想中度过10-15分钟。你会发现,比起你去刻意努力的记忆,这一方法能够让你对刚刚学到的新事物取得更佳的记忆效果。

Although it’s already well known that we should pace our studies, new research suggests that we should aim for “minimal interference” during these breaks – deliberately avoiding any activity that could tamper with the delicate task of memory formation. So no running errands, checking your emails, or surfing the web on your smartphone. You really need to give your brain the chance for a complete recharge with no distractions.

众所周知,我们应该调整我们学习活动的步调和节奏,而最新研究表明,我们应该在这些休整期内确保"最小程度的干预",有意识地避免可能干扰记忆形成这一微妙任务的其他任何活动。因此,不要处理杂事,不去查看电子邮件,也不要在智能手机上浏览网页,你的大脑需要一个完全放松的时刻,其间不要有任何分神的活动。

An excuse to do nothing may seem like a perfect mnemonic technique for the lazy student, but this discovery may also offer some relief for people with amnesia and some forms of dementia, suggesting new ways to release a latent, previously unrecognised, capacity to learn and remember.

对于懒惰的学生而言,有这么一个不用去干其他任何事情的借口,看起来简直是一种完美的帮助记忆技巧,然而这一发现也可能为失忆症和某些形式的痴呆症患者提供一些缓解,同时为释放一种潜在的、过去尚未被认识的学习和记忆能力提出了全新的方法。

The remarkable memory-boosting benefits of undisturbed rest were first documented in 1900 by the German psychologist Georg Elias Muller and his student Alfons Pilzecker. In one of their many experiments on memory consolidation, Muller and Pilzecker first asked their participants to learn a list of meaningless syllables. Following a short study period, half the group were immediately given a second list to learn – while the rest were given a six-minute break before continuing.

1900年,德国心理学家格奥尔格·埃利亚斯·缪勒(Georg Elias Muller)和他的学生阿尔方斯·皮尔扎克(Alfons Pilzecker)首先发现和记录了不受干扰的休息对增强记忆带来的显著好处。他们进行了众多关于巩固记忆的实验,有一次,缪勒和皮尔扎克首先要求一组参与者学习一份无意义的音节列表。在一段短暂的学习时间后,小组中的一半参与者立即得到第二份学习清单-其他人则获得6分钟休息时间,然后再继续学习。

When tested one-and-a-half-hours later, the two groups showed strikingly different patterns of recall. The participants given the break remembered nearly 50% of their list, compared to an average of 28% for the group who had been given no time to recharge their mental batteries. The finding suggested that our memory for new information is especially fragile just after it has first been encoded, making it more susceptible to interference from new information.

经过一个半小时的测试,这两个群体的记忆模式显示出惊人的差异。获得休息的参与者能够回忆起音节表中近50%的内容,而那些没有获得休整时间的参与者平均只能回忆起28%的内容。这一发现表明,我们对新信息的记忆在它首次被编码之后特别脆弱,使其更容易受到新信息的干扰。

Although a handful of other psychologists occasionally returned to the finding, it was only in the early 2000s that the broader implications of it started to become known, with a pioneering study by Sergio Della Sala at the University of Edinburgh and Nelson Cowan at the University of Missouri.

尽管其他一些心理学家偶然也会注意到这一发现,但直到21世纪初,由于爱丁堡大学(University of Edinburgh)的塞尔吉奥·德拉·萨拉(Sergio Della Sala)和密苏里大学(University of Missouri)的纳尔逊·考恩(Nelson Cowan)开展的一项开创性研究,其广泛影响才开始变得广为人知。

The team was interested in discovering whether reduced interference might improve the memories of people who had suffered a neurological injury, such as a stroke. Using a similar set-up to Muller and Pilzecker’s original study, they presented their participants with lists of 15 words and tested them 10 minutes later. In some trials, the participants remained busy with some standard cognitive tests; in others, they were asked to lie in a darkened room and avoid falling asleep.

德拉·萨拉和考恩感兴趣的研究点在于:减少干扰是否可改善遭受诸如中风神经创伤患者的记忆。使用与缪勒和皮尔扎克类似的原始研究设置,他们向参与者呈现了15个单词列表,并在10分钟后对其进行测试。在一些实验中,参与者继续参与一些标准的认知测试;而在另外一些实验中,参与者被要求躺在一个昏暗的房间里,但同时会避免他们入睡。

The impact of the small intervention was more profound than anyone might have believed. Although the two most severely amnesic patients showed no benefit, the others tripled the number of words they could remember – from 14% to 49%, placing them almost within the range of healthy people with no neurological damage.

小规模干预的影响其深远程度超过了任何人之前的认识。尽管两名最严重的遗忘患者没有任何改善,但其他患者的单词记忆数量却提升了三倍,从14%上升到49%,使他们的记忆水平几乎回到了从未受到神经损伤的健康人群范围内。

The next results were even more impressive. The participants were asked to listen to some stories and answer questions an hour later. Without the chance to rest, they could recall just 7% of the facts in the story; with the rest, this jumped to 79% – an astronomical 11-fold increase in the information they retained. The researchers also found a similar, though less pronounced, benefit for healthy participants in each case, boosting recall between 10 and 30%.

接下来的结果更令人震撼。参与者被要求听一些故事,并在一小时后回答问题。在没有休息的情况下,他们只能回想起故事中7%的事实;而获得休息的参与者,记住的内容则跳升至79%,他们记忆力增长了令人叹为观止的11倍。研究人员还发现,对于身体健康的参与者,尽管效果不那么显著,但在两项实验中也有类似的记忆提升,幅度在10%到30%之间。

Della Sala and Cowan’s former student, Michaela Dewar at Heriot-Watt University, has now led several follow-up studies, replicating the finding in many different contexts. In healthy participants, they have found that these short periods of rest can also improve our spatial memories, for instance – helping participants to recall the location of different landmarks in a virtual reality environment. Crucially, this advantage lingers a week after the original learning task, and it seems to benefit young and old people alike. And besides the stroke survivors, they have also found similar benefits for people in the earlier, milder stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

德拉·萨拉和考恩的学生,现任教于赫瑞瓦特大学(Heriot-Watt University)的米凯拉·杜瓦(Michaela Dewar)目前领导了多项后续研究,并在诸多不同的背景下重复得到了这一发现。在健康的参与者中,他们发现这些短暂的休息还可以改善人们的空间记忆,例如,帮助参与者回忆虚拟现实环境中不同地标的位置。至关重要的是,这种优势在原来学习任务之后的一周依然存在,并且对于年轻人和老年人似乎都有效。除了中风患者之外,他们还发现在阿尔茨海默病早期较轻的阶段人们也能获得类似的记忆改善。

In each case, the researchers simply asked the participants to sit in a dim, quiet room, without their mobile phones or similar distractions. “We don’t give them any specific instructions with regards to what they should or shouldn’t do while resting,” Dewar says. “But questionnaires completed at the end of our experiments suggest that most people simply let their minds wander.”

在每一种情况下,研究人员都只是要求参与者坐在昏暗、安静的房间里,没有手机或其他类似的干扰。"我们没有给他们任何具体的指示,提示他们休息时应该做什么或不该做什么,"杜瓦说。"但是,在我们实验结束时完成的调查问卷表明,大多数人只是让他们的大脑自然游走。"

Even then, we should be careful not to exert ourselves too hard as we daydream. In one study, for instance, participants were asked to imagine a past or future event during their break, which appeared to reduce their later recall of the newly learnt material. So it may be safest to avoid any concerted mental effort during our down time.

即使那样,我们也应当注意,不要像我们做白日梦那样太过使劲的运用大脑。例如,在一项研究中,参与者被要求在休息期间想象一件过去或未来的事情,而结果表明,这么做减少了之后他们对最新了解到的信息的回忆。因此,在我们休整的时候,避免任何需要费神的心智活动,可能才会得到最佳的效果。

The exact mechanism is still unknown, though some clues come from a growing understanding of memory formation. It is now well accepted that once memories are initially encoded, they pass through a period of consolidation that cements them in long-term storage. This was once thought to happen primarily during sleep, with heightened communication between the hippocampus – where memories are first formed – and the cortex, a process that may build and strengthen the new neural connections that are necessary for later recall.

尽管随着人们对记忆形成的日益了解为理解上述现象提供了一些线索,但其中确切的机制尚不得而知。现在人们普遍接受的一种认识是,当记忆的内容被初步编码后,这些记忆就会经历一段巩固期,将记忆内容在大脑的长期存储中进行巩固。在过去,人们认为这些活动主要发生在睡眠期间,在这期间,海马体(记忆首先在这里形成)和大脑皮层之间的沟通加强,这一过程可能会形成和加强之后唤起记忆所必须的新的神经联系。

This heightened nocturnal activity may be the reason that we often learn things better just before bed. But in line with Dewar’s work, a 2010 study by Lila Davachi at New York University, found that it was not limited to sleep, and similar neural activity occurs during periods of wakeful rest, too. In the study, participants were first asked to memorise pairs of pictures – matching a face to an object or scene – and then allowed to lie back and let their minds wander for a short period. Sure enough, she found increased communication between the hippocampus and areas of the visual cortex during their rest. Crucially, people who showed a greater increase in connectivity between these areas were the ones who remembered more of the task, she says.

这一在夜间会增强的神经活动,或许可以解释为什么我们往往在睡前学习效率更高。但纽约大学的莱拉·达瓦齐(Lila Davachi)在2010年的一项研究中发现,这一情况的发生并不仅限于睡眠时间,在人们醒着休息期间也会有类似的神经活动,这与杜瓦的研究结果不谋而合。在达瓦齐的研究中,参与者首先被要求背诵相互匹配的图片,将脸部与某一物体或场景相匹配,然后让参与者躺下来,让他们的大脑在短时间内放松。不出其所料,她发现在休息期间海马体与视觉皮层区域之间的交流增加了。至关重要的是,这些区域之间的连通性显著增加的参与者即是那些记住更多任务要求的人,达瓦齐指出。

Perhaps the brain takes any potential down time to cement what it has recently learnt – and reducing extra stimulation at this time may ease that process. It would seem that neurological damage may render the brain especially vulnerable to that interference after learning a new memory, which is why the period of rest proved to be particularly potent for stroke survivors and people with Alzheimer’s disease.

或许大脑会利用任何潜在的休整时间来巩固最近认知的东西,并且在此时减少额外的刺激,可能会让这一过程更加舒缓。情况表明,神经受损可能会使大脑在学习新鲜事物后特别容易受到干扰,这就是为什么片刻的休息显示出对中风患者和阿尔茨海默病患者特别有效。

Other psychologists are excited about the research. “The effect is quite consistent across studies now in a range of experiments and memory tasks,” says Aidan Horner at the University of York. “It’s fascinating.” Horner agrees that it could potentially offer new ways to help individuals with impairments to function.

其他心理学家对这项研究表现出了极大的兴趣。约克大学(University of York)的艾丹·霍纳说:"目前在各种实验和记忆任务的研究中,效果非常一致,这非常有趣。"这一研究可能会提供新的途径,帮助那些有(记忆)功能障碍的患者。

Practically speaking, he points out that it may be difficult to schedule enough periods of rest to increase their overall daily recall. But he thinks it could still be valuable to help a patient learn important new information – such as learning the name and face of a new carer. “Perhaps a short period of wakeful rest after that would increase the chances that they would remember that person, and therefore feel more comfortable with them later on.” Dewar tells me that she is aware of one patient who seems to have benefitted from using a short rest to learn the name of their grandchild, though she emphasises that it is only anecdotal evidence.

霍纳指出,实际上,通过安排足够的休息时间来增加患者的整体日常记忆力可能并不那么容易。但他认为,这方面的研究对于帮助患者学习重要的新信息仍然很有价值,例如记住新护理人员的姓名和面部特征。"也许在此之后短时间清醒的休息会增加他们记住护理人员的机会,从而在以后会让他们感到更加舒适。杜瓦告诉我,她发现,一名患者或许已经从中受益,通过运用短暂休息,他已记住了其孙子的名字,尽管杜瓦强调这仅仅只是一项观察性的证据。"

Thomas Baguley at Nottingham Trent University in the UK is also cautiously optimistic. He points out that some Alzheimer’s patients are already advised to engage in mindfulness techniques to alleviate stress and improve overall well-being. “Some [of these] interventions may also promote wakeful rest and it is worth exploring whether they work in part because of reducing interference,” he says, though it may be difficult to implement in people with severe dementia, he says.

英国诺丁汉特伦特大学(Nottingham Trent University)的托马斯·巴古雷(Thomas Baguley)对此也表现出谨慎乐观。他指出,一些阿尔茨海默病患者已被建议参与正念技巧的训练,以缓解压力并改善整体健康状况。他说:"这些干预措施中的一部分可能会促进清醒时刻的休息,对于这些干预之所以凑效是否是因为减少了干扰所致,这一点非常值得探究。"不过,巴古雷也指出,对于严重的痴呆患者,实施这样的干预可能是非常困难的。

Beyond the clinical benefits for these patients, Baguley and Horner both agree that scheduling regular periods of rest, without distraction, could help us all hold onto new material a little more firmly. After all, for many students, the 10-30% improvements recorded in these studies could mark the difference between a grade or two. “I can imagine you could embed these 10-15 minute breaks within a revision period,” says Horner, “and that might be a useful way of making small improvements to your ability to remember later on.”

除了对这些患者带来的临床改善之外,巴古雷和霍纳都同意,定期安排休息时间,不要分心,可以帮助我们所有人更有效地记住新内容。毕竟,对于许多学生而言,这些研究中记录的10-30%的记忆改善可能标志着一两个成绩等级的差异。"我可以想象,你可以在复习期间加入这样的10-15分钟的休息时间,"霍纳说,"这可能是小幅改善今后记忆能力的有效方法。"

In the age of information overload, it’s worth remembering that our smartphones aren’t the only thing that needs a regular recharge. Our minds clearly do too.

在信息过载的时代,我们应该记住的是,需要定期充电休整的并不仅仅是我们的智能手机,我们的头脑显然也应当如此。

“全文请访问纽约时报中文网,本文发表于纽约时报中文网(http://cn.nytimes.com),版权归纽约时报公司所有。任何单位及个人未经许可,不得擅自转载或翻译。订阅纽约时报中文网新闻电邮:http://nytcn.me/subscription/”

相关文章列表