Psychologists and scientists across the board all want to know: what are the best ways to study so as to keep the material in long-term memory (the storage process of which is called long-term potentiation). We want to retain the material for as long as possible, as well as make it accessible for recall. The importance of repetition has been stressed in these regards, but is all repetition created equal?
A recent study by Kramar et al at the University of Southern California has come back with an answer: No. Examining adult rat hippocampal slices, they found that long-term potentiation was enhanced if repetition was spaced apart by one hour or longer. In order to enhance the connections between regions of the brain devoted to memory, we must repeatedly fire them together. They write, “Intrinsic variability among individual synapses imposes a repetitive presentation requirement for maximizing the percentage of potentiated connections. We propose that a combination of local diffusion from initially modified spines coupled with much later membrane insertion events dictate that the repetitions be widely spaced”.
Of course it is beneficial to study whenever you have a spare moment (after all, repetition is the mother of learning), but this study only solidifies years of suspicion that repetition of material spaced over a long period of time far surpasses cramming. At Brainscape, we firmly believe in optimizing the time interval between study sessions to maximize this long term potentiation. This is why we developed Confidence Based Repetition, which is the heart of the Brainscape learning platform.