Are you curious about a topic? If the answer is yes, then you are in for a treat. New study shows that the more curious we are about something the easier the brain process information on it. Lead author Dr. Matthias Gruber said: “our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation — curiosity — affects memory. These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings.”

The study, published in the journal Neuron, provides valuable information on how our brain processes information when curiosity is stimulated. The results are particularly important in helping us finding ways to enhance overall learning and memory but also aid towards indiculfuals with neurological conditions.

For the study, participants rated their curiosity to learn the answers to a series of trivia questions. When they were later presented with a selected trivia question, there was a 14 second delay before the answer was provided, during which time the participants were shown a picture of a neutral, unrelated face.
Afterwards, participants performed a surprise recognition memory test for the faces that were presented, followed by a memory test for the answers to the trivia questions. During certain parts of the study, participants had their brains scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging.

The findings were somewhat interesting. First, as expected, people were much better at learning information they were curious about. However, even more surprisingly, ‘once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information (face recognition) that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about. People were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay’.

The scientists also found that while curiosity was stimulated, so was the area of the brain that encourages  motivation. “We showed that intrinsic motivation actually recruits the very same brain areas that are heavily involved in tangible, extrinsic motivation,” says Dr. Gruber.

Lastly, the team discovered that when curiosity motivated learning, the region of the brain that forms new memories also showed increased activity. “So curiosity recruits the reward system, and interactions between the reward system and the hippocampus seem to put the brain in a state in which you are more likely to learn and retain information, even if that information is not of particular interest or importance,” explains principal investigator Dr. Charan Ranganath.

These are amazing news for the ‘curious’ of us out there, which could also enhance the lives of other people, such as the elderly and students alike. By understanding the relationship between memory and motivation could lead towards new ways of improving memory in the  healthy elderly and develop new techniques for those affected by learning and memory issues.

‘And in the classroom or workplace, learning what might be considered boring material could be enhanced if teachers or managers are able to harness the power of students’ and workers’ curiosity about something they are naturally motivated to learn.’

(Source: ScienceDaily)

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Psychologist, world citizen, mother - Effie is one half of the alwaysladies.com founding pair. She can bring to life any party with either a smile, or a strong opinion. If like us you can't get enough of Effie, visit her blog at www.thethinkingmomblog.com

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