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Brain Relates To Past Memories while Processing New Information

Update Date: Jul 17, 2012 09:43 AM EDT

A latest study,that paves way for better teaching methods in future, has revealed that memory-binding process allows people to understand new concepts better and also helps them in making future decisions.

The finding could also be helpful in the treatment of degenerative neurological disorders, such as dementia, reported

"Memories are not just for reflecting on the past; they help us make the best decisions for the future," says Alison Preston, assistant professor of psychology and neurobiology at the University of Texas at Austin and a research affiliate in the Center for Learning and Memory.

"Here, we provide a direct link between these derived memories and the ability to make novel inferences."

For the study, researchers showed a series of paired images to 34 subjects. The paired images included various elements (for example, an object and an outdoor scene). Each of the paired images would then reappear in more presentations. A backpack, paired with a horse in the first presentation, would appear alongside a field in a later presentation, the report said.

It seems, when the elements of two images overlapped, the participants could remember the images better. The overlap between the backpack and outdoor scenery (horse and field) would cause the viewer to associate the backpack with the horse and field. The researchers also examined this strategy to see how respondents thought of a recent past while processing new information.

The researchers, using MRI tests, studied the brain activity of the subjects while they looked at image presentations. Preston and her team found that the participants thought about past images while looking at overlapping images.

For example, they studied how the respondents thought about a past image (a horse) when looking at the backpack and the field. The researchers found the participants who thought about related memories while looking at overlapping image pairs were able to make associations between individual items (i.e. the horse and the field) even though they had never studied those images together, the report said.

 "This is just a simple example of how our brains store information that goes beyond the exact events we experience," Preston said. "By combining past events with new information, we're able to derive new knowledge and better anticipate what to expect in the future."

The report was originally published in the journal Neuron.

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