Do you ever wonder why you can remember some things, while others just pass through your mind as if it’s Swiss cheese?
For example, everybody’s mind is filled with what is pretty well trivia. Some people can recite every song lyric by a particular artist, recall countless baseball statistics with the greatest of ease, or provide endless detail about the beauty and benefits of an oak wood finish. But ask the same person about politics, the economy, or what they learned in school, and they aren’t so able to easily recall that information.
When you’re interested and curious, you’re motivated to learn. You’re going to pay attention and retain information. That’s why your friend who loves baseball can recite obscure stats but likely has no idea what color of t-shirt he was wearing yesterday.
So can curiosity be the key to delaying the onset of neurodegenerative disease and the effects of aging on the brain? According to new research, it might.
A new study has shown that when your curiosity is piqued, you are better at learning information. Therefore, if you’re motivated to learn the answer to a question or more detail about a topic, you’re more likely to pay attention to the information that relates to it. Basically, curiosity is a motivator for learning.
The research team also learned that curiosity fires up brain circuits that are linked to reward, essentially making it more satisfying to learn. They also noted that curiosity stimulates overall information retention, regardless of what is learned, for a 24-hour window. This means that information you learn, even if you don’t care about it, is easier to learn after curiosity has been stimulated.
What’s even more interesting is that they discovered why this happens, which could potentially impact the mental affects of aging that have become so commonplace.
During times of curiosity-motivated learning, the team noticed activity in the hippocampus, the area of the brain largely important for the formation of new memories. Because curiosity activates the reward system, the interaction between the hippocampus and dopamine brings the brain into a state where you’re more likely to retain information.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for reward, and it tends to decline in production as you get older. However, if curiosity and motivation spark this area of the brain, it could be used to slow down mental aging, allowing older individuals to form and recall new memories further into old age.
Although more work has to be done to determine effective treatment methods based on these findings, these results help reinforce the importance of keeping your brain stimulated as you age.
In the meantime, try to keep curious and learning about things that interest you. Doing a little bit of research every day could do wonders for your memory, sharpness, mental health, and overall brain function.
Source for Today’s Article:
Gruber, M.J., et al., “States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit,” Neuron 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.08.060.