Under the Hood

This Simple Eye Trick May Help You Retrieve Memories

Researchers discovered a potential way to better remember images that you saw in the past. Some eye movements appeared helping people recall memory clearly because of its effects on the brain. 

The new study, published in the journal PNAS, shows the connection between eye movements and memory retrieval. Researchers said that when people try to recall certain things, they move their eyes to directions similar to how they saw it before.

“When we see a picture, a face or something else that we have already seen, our eyes tend to look at the same locations as they did the first time,” Bradley Buchsbaum, senior scientist at Baycrest Center’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) in Canada, said in a statement. “The brain compares important characteristics of what we are seeing to a mental picture in our memory, and it identifies the two as the same.”

For the study, researchers asked participants to memorize 30 new images on a screen. They then looked at another series, which included previously shown images and new-but-similar images. 

The participants were later asked to recall the images they saw while looking at a blank screen. Researchers observed their eye movements and found that the people who made eye movements similar to how they initially saw the image were highly accurate in identifying previously seen images. 

The researchers provided incomplete or "degraded" versions of images to test the initial findings. Surprisingly, even after looking at an image that was 80 percent degraded, participants were able to recall what they saw using the same eye movements.  

What the participants did was a phenomenon called "pattern completion." 

“If we see someone in the distance, or if their face is partially hidden by branches, our brain will compare the features that are visible to a mental picture to determine whether we know that person,” Jordana Wynn, lead researcher and a fellow at Harvard University, explained. 

Researchers said their study may soon help improve the approach to assessing memory. They said traditional tests for diagnosing memory impairments, such as dementia, widely use verbal methods.

Buchsbaum said eye tracking would eliminate the need to require patients to remember. The new method would only involve observing eye movements to get more information about their memory. 

The team plans to continue the study to further understand how eye movements directly help with memory retrieval. 

Eyes Researchers discovered that some eye movements could help people recall memory clearly because of its effects on the brain. Pixabay

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