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Posture May Affect Memory, Learning

Mar 19, 2015 04:32 PM EDT
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Previous studies have tied your ability to remember to things like marijuana use, depressive thoughts, and even your gender. But now new research has found that body posture may affect your memory as well as learning.

That's at least according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, in which researchers from Indiana University found that posture is critical in the early stages of acquiring new knowledge.

"A number of studies suggest that memory is tightly tied to the location of an object," lead author Linda Smith said in a statement. "None, however, have shown that bodily position plays a role or that, if you shift your body, you could forget."

Interestingly, to figure this out Smith and her colleagues used robots, as well as infants, to study the way "objects of cognition" (i.e. words, memories of physical objects) are tied to the position of the body. The robots were programmed to map the name of an object to the object through shared association with a posture.

"This study shows that the body plays a role in early object name learning, and how toddlers use the body's position in space to connect ideas," Smith added. "The creation of a robot model for infant learning has far-reaching implications for how the brains of young people work."

Both the robots and children age 12 to 18 months old went through a series of experiments, the first involving showing an object to the subject's left, then a different object to the right. The process was repeated several times to create an association between the objects and the body postures. Then a second experiment was done with no objects in place, and both robots and infants were given commands to elicit the same postures from the previous experiment.

Lastly, the two objects were presented in the same locations without naming, after which the two objects were presented in different locations as their names were repeated.

They found that the robot consistently made a connection between the object and its name during 20 repeats of the experiment. But in subsequent tests where the target and another object were placed in both locations - so as to not be associated with a specific posture - the robot failed to remember the target object.

With the infants, the results were only slightly different but their meaning was the same: that posture plays an important part in remembering the names of objects. Though, the researchers note that more research is needed to see whether this association applies solely to infants.

"These experiments may provide a new way to investigate the way cognition is connected to the body, as well as new evidence that mental entities, such as thoughts, words and representations of objects, which seem to have no spatial or bodily components, first take shape through spatial relationship of the body within the surrounding world," Smith concluded.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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