blue and black abstract painting

100 Things You Should Know About People: #94 — Repetition Changes Your Brain



Drawing of a neuron

Have you ever wondered what a memory is exactly and how it gets formed? You have hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of memories in your brain. Songs you remember how to sing. Scenes from movies. Memories of last year’s holiday. Facts such as the names of all the planets, and on and on. Do you know what a memory is and how it gets created?

Neurons firing — There are 10 billion neurons in your brain that store information. Electrical impulses flow through a neuron and are moved by neuron-transmitting chemicals across the synaptic gap between neurons. Neurons in your brain fire every time you repeat a word, phrase, song, or phone number you are trying to memorize. Memories are stored as patterns of connections between neurons.

How a memory gets stronger — When two neurons are activated, the connections between them are strengthened. If you repeat the information enough times, the neurons form a “firing trace”. Once the trace is formed, then just starting the sequence triggers the rest of the items, and allows you to retrieve the memory. This is why you need to hear information over and over in order for it to “stick”.

Physical changes in your brain — Experience causes physical changes in your brain. In a few seconds new circuits are formed that can change forever the way you think about something or remember information.

Practice does make perfect — So whether you are trying to remember facts for your next text in school, or learn how to say “I would like a glass of wine” in a new language, or how to play the piano, the more you repeat the activity or thought, the stronger a trace you are making in your brain, and the more likely you will be to remember the information.


4 responses to “100 Things You Should Know About People: #94 — Repetition Changes Your Brain”

  1. Danny @ Firepole Marketing Avatar

    If I remember correctly, the process is called myelination, right? When a neuron fires down a given path, a fatty substance called myelin is secreted around it, which insulates the path of neurons, and increases its conductivity, making it more of a “path of least resistance” – is that right?

    So how would this apply to marketing? I guess it means that we want to create repetitive actions and routines for people to follow, so that they become habitual? How does this square with advice about how people become blind to things they are used to seeing?

  2. Tommy Avatar

    somewhere I read that it’s easier to learn / remember new things when you study them before you go to bed. how is that physically explained? does my brain have better capabilities to form form a “firing trace” during sleep?

  3. Peter Wilson Avatar
    Peter Wilson

    I like this one a lot! I wonder if this is also why we sometimes have to finish the “firing trace” once we start it; have you ever hard part of a song, and feel like you couldn’t think about anything else until you ran the entire song through your head?

  4. Tia Avatar

    Hey there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *