Health And Medicine

Curiosity Changes The Brain To Enhance Learning

Einstein once claimed - "Curiosity has its own reason for existing," he was right and the researchers have discovered that reason. It is a common observation when we are curious about something, it is easy to learn information about it.

Curiosity Changes The Brain To Enhance Learning

Einstein once claimed – “Curiosity has its own reason for existing,” he was right and the researchers have discovered that reason. It is a common observation when we are curious about something, it is easy to learn information about it.

Now, science confirms this by showing that curiosity changes the brain in ways to enhance learning. Carried out by a team at University of California, the research has revealed insights on how curiosity affects memory.

ALSO SEE: Why Childhood Memories Are Hard To Recall

The participants were asked to rate their curiosity to learn the answers to as series of trivia questions. Later, they were presented with selected trivia question, there was a 14 second delay before the answer was provided during which they were shown a picture of neutral, unrelated face. After this participants performed a surprise recognition memory test for the answers to the trivia questions.

During certain parts of the study, participants had their brains scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Three important findings were revealed by the study.

  • First, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning the information. This was expected. On the other hand, some observation was surprising. It was found that once the curiosity was aroused, participants showed better learning of the entirely unrelated information, in this case “face recognition”. Even though they weren’t necessarily curious about the unrelated information, they learned it anyway. People were also better at retaining the information learned during curious state across a 24 hour delay.
  • Secondly, the researchers found when curiosity is stimulated, there is an increase in the activity in the brain circuit related to reward. This reward circuit relies on dopamine.
  • Third finding was when curiosity motivated learning, there was an increase in activity in hippocampus, a region of brain where new memories are formed. Not only this but there was an increase in the interactions between the hippocampus and the reward circuit.

These results suggest that curiosity recruits the reward system and interactions between the reward system and the hippocampus puts the brain in a state in which new information can not only be learned but also retained even if that information is of no particular or importance. These findings can suggest ways to enhance learning and memory in both healthy people and those with neurological disorders. For example, as a person gets older the brain circuits that rely on dopamine decline.

ALSO SEE: Research Proves A Part Of Hippocampus To Be Involved In Social Memory

Understanding the neurology of behaviors such as motivation and memory could therefore help improve memory in healthy elderly and develop new approaches for treating patients with disorders that affect memory. These findings can also be implicated in classroom or workplace by stimulating the curiosity thus helping to learn what one might consider boring material.

30 comments

  1. This has very interesting implications for teachers and parents.

    Now the question becomes how to stimulate curiosity 🙂

    On another matter, I don’t see the regular WordPress “like” button?

  2. Interesting article and from experience I can vouch for this. I approached literature through classics illustrated in which at the end were back ground notes. That sets me later on to read additional literature about whatever I was interested. The habit has stayed even after a lapse of 60 years, If I remember the images I can retrieve other additional info. on it. Even now. Brain has its plasticity to create new communication channels so disparate bits of info hang together.

  3. No wonder I remember certain historic events very well when I am curious about some of the personnel involved, the impacts or the causes. And as a result, being called a walking encyclopedia by some—not exactly, just that I read more than them. Too think that I had always failed my history tests when back in high school when forced to memorize the facts. This article confirms my long-held suspicions.

    *press the “like” button*

    1. i’m always amazed to read that scientific methods have finally confirmed what basically, mankind has known for thousands of years. wull, shit yes! when we’re curious a whole new world opens up to us … didn’t you know? of course you knew but it took MRIs and brain scans and random answers and facial recognition and galvanic skin responses to FINALLY … prove beyond a doubt what we already knew! but we had to quantify it first in order to confirm it to ourselves. doesn’t it seem kind of strange sometimes? … … this article stimulated my hyppocampus which caused a thought to pop into my mind … maybe curiosity is the driving force behind evolution …. ks

      1. Well, to confirm something we already know, we have to be curious enough to carry out experiments and put some hard work to conclude the “confirmation”. So, guess it’s all thanks to curiosity! 🙂

    2. Same with me, I can never learn something that’s forced upon me and learning something I find interesting doesn’t even seem to require much effort. Guess that’s just the way most people are! Thanks for the like! 🙂

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