If you’re looking for a new memory-boosting brain hack, Dutch researchers have one that doesn’t even involve experimental pills or neural implants. All you’ll need is a treadmill or a pair of running shoes. Dutch researchers at Radboud University Medical Center conducted a 72-person study on exercise and memory consolidation. Specifically, we’re talking aerobic exercise such as running and — of all the different forms of human memory — declarative or explicit memory, a form of long-term memory that relates to facts and verbal knowledge. They split the subjects into three groups and each began the experiment with a 40-minute learning session, during which they absorbed 90 picture-location associations. Afterwards, they all took a baseline memory test on the material. One group immediately launched into a 35-minute spin class and another waited four hours before hitting the stationary bikes. The third group just sat on their keisters. Forty-eight hours later, the researchers called everyone back in, tested their knowledge retention and analyzed their brains with a little MRI. Those who exercised 4 hours after learning showed a marked advantage on the second memory test. The study, published in the journal Current Biology, stresses that there’s much we don’t know here.
We don’t’ know why or how delayed exercise impacts memory consolidation — and indeed, the molecular mechanisms of consolidation are poorly understood. And 4 hours is just an experimental time frame — the exact, effective time frame for the delayed exercise boost is unknown. Plus, again, we’re talking about just one of several memory types here. While this study focused on declarative memory tasks, a handful of previous studies observed an immediate post-exercise boost in procedural memory tasks. If future studies support these findings, we might gain new insight on the benefits of physical education classes. But if nothing else, these findings get to drive home the fact that the human brain is not a digital computer and memory is not a comprehensive file of imputed data. The brain is a hyper computer, memories are malleable and new information must be consolidated via a neurochemical process.
But hey, YOU have access to knowledge and exercise, so why don’t you try this approach out for yourself and report your findings. And if you crave more scientific insights into your daily life, be sure to visit now.howstuffworks.com each and every day..