Researchers have recently discovered how natural curiosity about any topic will make it much easier to learn information pertaining to it. The research appears in the latest edition of Journal Neuron and offers new insight into what goes in our brains when curiosity is aroused.
Dr. Matthias Gruber, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of California at Davis said, “Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation—curiosity—affects memory. These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings.”
The study involved the participants to rate their curiosity to obtain knowledge of the answers to a series of trivia questions. There was a 14 second delay prior to the answer being provided. During this interval the participants were shown a picture of a neutral, unrelated face. Later the participants were given a surprise recognition memory test for the faces that were presented. This was followed by a memory test for the answers to the trivia questions. The participants have their brains scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The results of the brain study led to three major conclusions:
People are exceedingly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information.
The scientists found that when the curiosity is raised, there is elevated activity in the brain circuit related to reward.
Third, the researchers learnt that when curiosity provoked learning, there was amplified activity in the hippocampus.
Hippocampus is a region of the brain where new memories are formed. The latest findings can have an impact on for medicine and beyond and help scientists get a better understanding of the brain.
Senior Author Charan Ranganath, who is also a professor at UC Davis Center for Neuroscience said, “So curiosity recruits the reward system, and interactions between the reward system and the hippocampus seem to put the brain in a state in which you are more likely to learn and retain information, even if that information is not of particular interest or importance.”
The authors concluded that the capacity of thinking or creating a curiosity differs from person to person, however to learn in an effective manner, the people needs to try and develop curiosity in whatever they study.