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Preventing loss of detailed memory

5 May

A paper published in the journal Learning & Memory

Episodic memories undergo qualitative changes with time, but little is known about how different aspects of memory are affected. Different types of information in a memory, such as perceptual detail, and central themes, may be lost at different rates. In patients with medial temporal lobe damage, memory for perceptual details is severely impaired, while memory for central details is relatively spared. Given the sensitivity of memory to loss of details, the present study sought to investigate factors that mediate the forgetting of different types of information from naturalistic episodic memories in young healthy adults. The study investigated (1) time-dependent loss of “central” and “peripheral” details from episodic memories, (2) the effectiveness of cuing with reminders to reinstate memory details, and (3) the role of retrieval in preventing forgetting. Over the course of 7 d, memory for naturalistic events (film clips) underwent a time-dependent loss of peripheral details, while memory for central details (the core or gist of events) showed significantly less loss. Giving brief reminders of the clips just before retrieval reinstated memory for peripheral details, suggesting that loss of details is not always permanent, and may reflect both a storage and retrieval deficit. Furthermore, retrieving a memory shortly after it was encoded prevented loss of both central and peripheral details, thereby promoting retention over time. We consider the implications of these results for behavioral and neurobiological models of retention and forgetting.

I have underlined the take away message. In other words, short term retrieval practice aids long term memory.


How to practice effectively

24 Mar

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

A blog about the science of learning

12 Dec

The blog at The Learning Scientists is well worth following. Here is their self description:

We are cognitive psychological scientists interested in research on education. Our main research focus is on the science of learning. (Hence, “The Learning Scientists”!)

Our Vision is to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students, teachers, and other educators.

We aim to :

Motivate students to study
Increase the use of effective study and teaching strategies that are backed by research
Decrease negative views of testing
This is not a product or a sales pitch – just science!

Here is their video about spaced practice:

Spaced repetition at the Quantified Self

21 Sep

The most important technique for improving your learning and memory is spaced repetition. Here is a link to a series of videos about  spaced repetition at The Quantified Self.

Zoom in trick for Anki

13 Nov

Anki is a popular space repetition program. I use it every day. I have it on my smart phone and on my computer. Recently, however, when I switched to the Surface Pro, I discovered that the text on Anki was very small and hard to read.

But I just discovered a trick that solves the problem.


Peter Lewis on spaced repetition

5 Mar

Regular readers know that I am an advocate of spaced repetition software (For more details, see my book).

Here Peter Lewis describes an interesting strategy for learning foreign vocabulary:

“I decided to read a book in German, look up all the words I didn’t know, and learn as many as possible over a one-month period. Here’s the book I chose, a translation of an American crime novel from the 1940s:

Step one was to mark the unfamiliar words and look them up:

Step two was to enter them into the software:

And step three was to review and rate the scheduled cards every day:”

I think I might try this!

How to create online flashcards with a Google spreadsheet

26 Feb

This helpful video shows how to create online flashcards using a Google spreadsheet and


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