A new study looked at cognitive training that helps the brain focus on what’s most important and ignore distractions. It can increase the brain’s ability to process information, which in turn allows the brain to “learn” to learn. The research was published in Nature Journal.
Andre Fenton, a professor at New York University of neural science and the senior author of the study, stated that “merely remembering what we learned in school is not the point of an educational experience.” He said that instead of using our brains to store information for later recall, we can ‘learn how to learn’ which makes us more adaptive and mindful as well as intelligent.
Researchers have frequently studied the machinations of memory–specifically, how neurons stored the information gained from experience so that the same information can be recalled later. We know less about the neurobiology behind learning to learn. This includes how our brains use past experiences to create new and meaningful memories. This could help us to find new methods to enhance learning, as well as to design precise cognitive behavioural therapies for neuropsychiatric disorders, such anxiety, schizophrenia and other forms.
Researchers conducted a series experiment using mice to investigate this. The mice were tested for their ability and willingness to learn cognitively challenging tasks. Some mice had received cognitive control training (CCT) prior to the assessment. They were placed in a slowly rotating area and taught to avoid the stationary shock location by using stationary visual cues. The shock locations on the rotating floor were ignored. CCT mice were then compared to control mice. One control group also learned place avoidance, but it didn’t have to ignore the irrelevant rotating places. Scientists noted that the rotating arena place avoidance method was crucial to the experiment. It manipulates spatial information and dissociates the environment into stationary or rotating components. The lab had previously shown that the hippocampus is essential for maintaining strong neuronal connections and storing long-term memories.
Fenton stated that “in short, there were molecular and physiological reasons to examine long term place avoidance memory within the hippocampus circuit as also a theory for how it could persistently improve.” CCT analysis revealed that the mice used relevant information to avoid shock, and ignored the rotating distractions. This process of ignoring distractions was crucial to the mice’s learning, as it allowed them perform novel cognitive tasks more efficiently than mice who did not receive CCT. The researchers were able to measure how CCT affected the hippocampal neural circuitry of the mice’s ability to process information. CCT helped improve the function of the hippocampus for months. It is vital for long-lasting memory formation and for spatial navigation.
“The study shows that cognitive control training can lead to learning to teach mice. It also shows that learning to read is associated with a better tuning of a key brain function for memory. Fenton observed that the brain is more effective at suppressing noise and more consistent at enhancing inputs that matter. Ain Chung and Eliott levy, NYU doctoral candidates at the time of research, Claudia Jou, a doctoral student at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, Alejandro Grauperales and Dino Dvorak who were NYU postdoctoral fellows during the study, and Nida Hassain, a student in NYU’s College of Arts and Science, at the time of study. (ANI)
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