(NaturalNews) Brains in a state of relaxation are better able to remember new information, according to a study conducted by researchers from the California Institute of Technology and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and published in the journal Nature.
Prior studies have already suggested this connection, but the new study is the first to show that memorization occurs best during a specific electrical brain state.
"This study establishes a direct relationship between events at the circuit level of the brain ... and their effects on human behavior," researcher Ueli Rutishauser said.
Researchers recruited eight epileptic volunteers who were already undergoing electroencephalogram (EEG) tests, in which electrodes are placed directly on the surface of the brain to measure its activity. Because of the invasive nature of EEG testing, most such tests on humans do not meet modern ethical standards (although the same tests on rats are still carried out).
While the patients underwent the EEG test, the researchers showed them 100 photos of a variety of objects for one second each. Between 15 and 30 minutes later, the participants were shown another 100 photos, 50 of which had also been part of the first set. The participants were asked to tell the researchers which of the photos they had already seen before, as well as how confident they felt about their answers.
Participants who had first viewed the photos while their brains were producing "theta waves" were significantly more likely to remember them in the second pass.
Theta waves are produced in states of daydreaming, relaxation and sleepiness. They have also been associated, in the past, with memory and learning.
"Our research shows that when memory-related neurons are well coordinated to theta waves during the learning process, memories are stronger," researcher Adam Mamelak said.
The research might eventually lead to techniques that can help people with learning disabilities or dementia form stronger memories.