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Theta Waves

July 5, 2011

A type of spontaneous brain activity seems to create favorable conditions for remembering things.



A pro-memory brain state…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

We’ve all had the experience of trying to remember something and giving up – only to have it pop into our heads hours or even months later. Now, neuroscientist Charan Ranganath may be onto an explanation. He and his colleagues at the University of California at Davis monitored volunteers’ brain activity as they took a memory test. They found that a particular type of brainwave, called theta, set the stage for better recall.

CHARAN RANGANATH (University of California, Davis):

The amount of theta activity you have before you get cued actually predicts whether or not that cue will help remind you of something from the past.


That’s in contrast to traditional memory research, which has looked at how different external cues trigger certain kinds of brain activity. This study suggests it also works the other way around: that certain cyclical, spontaneous brain states put us in an ideal frame of mind to remember things. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.