(ORDO NEWS) — It turns out that you can give direct commands to your brain! In a new study, scientists have found that verbal or mental instructions to “clear memory” can help free up space in your brain for more important information.
The human brain never ceases to amaze scientists. How many more possibilities of our consciousness do we not know ?! It’s hard even to imagine!
American researchers decided to find out what happens in our brain when we try to stop thinking about something. To do this, they resorted to functional magnetic resonance imaging and machine learning technology.
When we try to forget about something, usually we either find some other fascinating thing, or try to “clear” consciousness, for example, through meditation. In order to understand which method works best, the researchers conducted an experiment.
They recruited 60 volunteers who tried to “erase” a thought from their working memory. Working memory is a “notebook” of our brain, where we write down temporary thoughts so as not to forget to do something. “We can only keep three or four thoughts in our working memory at a time,” notes the author of the work, Professor Lewis Peacock. “Notepad pages must be cleared to write further.”
To determine if people could actually remove a thought from working memory, the team performed a brain scan (fMRI) of each participant. When the participants were inside the scanner, the scientists showed them pictures of faces, fruits and various scenes and asked them to keep a thought about them for four seconds.
Participants were then asked to replace one thought with another (for example, replace the image of apples with mountains), clear the mind of all thoughts (meditate), or try to suppress the thought (focus on it and then consciously try to stop thinking about it).
Before the participants began to complete their assignments, the scientists created individual “brain signatures,” that is, images showing what each person’s brain looked like when they thought about a particular picture. Then, they loaded these signatures into a machine learning program, and began monitoring brain activity while performing tasks. Surprisingly, as soon as the volunteers began to “erase” the image from their memory in one of three ways, all the previously recorded signatures disappeared! Artificial intelligence couldn’t find any of them.
“We were delighted,” the scientists comment. “Apparently, we can really ‘remove’ thoughts from memory.”
However, the researchers found that the “replace”, “cleanse” and “suppress” methods have different consequences. Although the first two caused the brain signature to fade away faster, it did not disappear completely, leaving a shadow when new thoughts emerged. Suppression took more time, but was more effective.
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