Neuroscience: Little rests that help the brain learn new things


  • Paula Adamo Idoeta
  • BBC News Brazil in London

person learning piano

photo credit, Seventy-four


Research shows that when learning something new, like a song on the piano, it’s more effective to take short breaks than to practice constantly until you’re exhausted.

To learn something new, you have to practice, practice, practice, says common sense – the idea is that “one becomes a blacksmith by choking one’s throat”.

But a number of scientific studies have shown that relentless practice may not be the most effective way to learn a new skill: the brain needs rest to consolidate newly acquired knowledge and transform it from temporary to permanent memory.

And one of the latest discoveries is that short breaks interspersed with activity practice lead to important learning gains: the brain uses these breaks to mentally and very quickly review what has just been learned, thereby reinforcing newly acquired skill.

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