If you want to develop better instincts, improve your habits.

sleep-deprived

Relational memory defines our mind’s ability to process multiple, simultaneous sources of stimulus and find meaningful connections between them. Calling on stores of memories such as sights, sounds, smells, emotions, scents and scenes gives us the ability to ‘know’ something without actually understanding how we know it. (Think hunches and intuition.)

Michael Torrice, author of the article “Remembering Without Knowing It”, asks you to try the following trick at home. Have a friend remove an object from a room that you are very familiar with – and then see if you can uncover what object they took away. There is an extremely high likelihood, according to Torrice, that your eyes will naturally fixate on the spot where the missing item used to be. Even if your mind hasn’t identified the missing item, your brain knows what (and where) it was.

Little is still known about the process the mind uses to gather relational memory from its multiple sources, but this does not diminish the proof that it occurs.

Studies performed by cognitive neurologists Hannula and Ranganath, of the University of California, used magnetic resonance imaging to measure changes occurring in the brain when volunteers participated in their picture-pairing study. Volunteers were shown 216 pairs of pictures, each grouped a person’s face with a scene (such as the Grand Canyon).

Amazingly, even when the subject picked the incorrect face, their hippocampus was notably more active when their eyes were looking at the correct face. In these cases, the mind ‘knew’, but the correlation wasn’t made consciously.

Hannula and Ranganath also observed that when the volunteers actually made correct choices, their pre-fontal cortex lit up significantly. This helped them to surmise that relational memory is actually a two-phase process. “First you have retrieval of the memory, and then you have conscious appreciation of what is retrieved.”

Studies now show that relational memory is significantly enhanced thru sleep. A Columbia University study conducted in 2007 tested relational memory across three ‘offline’ time periods – 20 minutes, 12 hours (awake or with sleep) and 24 hours. 56% percent of the 56 person study showed no evidence of improved relational memory in 20 minutes, however exhibited greater than 75% improvement after 12 and 24 hour increments.

If the 12 hours included sleep, scores improved by an additional 24%.

Though the ‘whys’ aren’t completely known, sleep dramatically improves our ability to connect the dots between past memory and current situations. It’s time to get serious about bedtimes, just as you were made to as kids by your parents. Proper sleep also reduces stress, improves memory and helps you to have a more positive outlook on life…

 

 

 

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