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Posted by abeodbart June 29, 2011 at 8:32 am

A little practice goes a long way, according to researchers at McMaster University, who have found the effects of practice on the brain have remarkable staying power.

The study, published this month in the journal Psychological Science, found that when participants were shown visual patterns – faces, which are highly familiar objects, and abstract patterns, which are much less frequently encountered – they were able to retain very specific information about those patterns one to two years later.

We found that this type of learning, called perceptual learning, was very precise and long-lasting, says Zahra Hussain, lead author of the study who is a former McMaster graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour and now a Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham. These long-lasting effects arose out of relatively brief experience with the patterns  about two hours, followed by nothing for several months, or years.

Over the course of two consecutive days, participants were asked to identify a specific face or pattern from a larger group of images. The task was challenging because images were degradedfaces were cropped, for exampleand shown very briefly. Participants had difficulty identifying the correct images in the early stages, but accuracy rates steadily climbed with practice.

About one year later, a group of participants were called back and their performance on the task was re-measured, both with the same set of items theyd been exposed to earlier, and with a new set from the same class of images. Researchers found that when they showed participants the original images, accuracy rates were high. When they showed participants new images, accuracy rates plummeted, even though the new images closely resembled the learned ones, and they hadnt seen the original images for at least a year.

Full Story with details at McMaster Uni

June 29, 2011 at 8:55 am
Hollie says:

Apparently the average number of thoughts that humans are believed to experience each day is 70,000 so lets say you live up to the age of 60, so there is about 365.25 days according to the internet. In one year you may endure about 25567500 per a year. So i think over 60 years the number of thought you could experience is 1534050000. This is only a very simple guess. :)

June 29, 2011 at 11:04 pm
Samantha B says:

They should conduct a study to find out how much information our brains can store unconsciously. For example subjecting someone to a particular situation (covertly of course) with vital information in, then several days later put them into another situation that requires them to use this information and see how much they picked up unconsciously… Does that sound too familiar?? :)

June 30, 2011 at 1:07 pm
alan says:

Isn’t this the same sort of thing as the evolved memory storage facility demonstrated by Aboriginals? Who were classed as sub-human by Caucasian invaders. Until experimentation using “the Great Game” items on a tray test. Which showed minds that had evolved, possibly assisted by narrative reinforcement. To enable those indigenous peoples to navigate their environment, through use of association.

June 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm
Emma says:

I would love for someone to test my brain. I can remember a lot of things, well nearly everything. I can remember my mum putting me in my pram as a baby, and I can remember having photos taken at 3 months old…. I do believe the human brain is an amazing thing.

June 30, 2011 at 4:01 pm
Dave says:

If you want to test your brain, the BBC has a bunch of interesting tests and surveys on its Science site at


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