'Snapshot' glasses improve visual memory

July 25, 2012 at 3:24 PM
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DURHAM, N.C., July 25 (UPI) -- Doing a physical activity while wearing eyewear that simulates a strobe-like experience can increase visual short-term memory retention, U.S. scientists say.

Participants in a Duke University study engaged in physical activities, such as playing catch, while wearing eyewear that limited vision to only brief snapshots of the activity.

Compared to participants who played catch without the eyewear, the study found participants who trained with the strobe eyewear gained a boost in visual memory abilities, a university release reported.

"Humans have a memory buffer in their brain that keeps information alive for a certain short-lived period," Greg Appelbaum, Duke professor of psychiatry, said. "Wearing the strobe eyewear during the physical training seemed to boost the ability to retain information in this buffer."

The strobe eyewear disrupted vision by only allowing the users to see glimpses of the world, causing them to adjust their visual processing in order to perform normally, researchers said.

This adjustment seemed to produce a lingering benefit, they said, and once participants removed the strobe eyewear there was an observed boost in their visual memory retention that was found to still be active 24 hours later.

"Improving human cognition is an important goal with so many benefits," Appelbaum said. "Interestingly, our findings demonstrate one way in which visual experience has the capacity to improve cognition."

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