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Light and memory – how light affects your ability to learn and remember

This week as school winds down for the summer break, I’ve gathered some articles about light and memory. The topic has been top of mind for me because I’ve been invited by memory guru Jim Kwik to appear on his podcast – watch this space!

And thank you so much to those of you who took the three-minute survey about how I can make this newsletter better for you. The link is here in case you missed it – would be so grateful for any thoughts or comments –

In the mood to remember?

It’s hard to stick at tough tasks and learn when you’re feeling down. These articles explain how depressed people tend to disengage even when they’re capable of delivering. Light can help in two ways: bright light, particularly cool blue light in the morning can boost your mood – Bright light therapy for depression: A review of its effects on chronobiology and the autonomic nervous system

This second study with older people showed that lighting that created a cosy atmosphere could reduce stress levels compared to a neutral scheme. Equally, lighting associated with a more activating mood triggered an active physiological response. – Disengagement from tasks as a function of cognitive load and depressive symptom severity

Sunlight boosts your memory…

This classic review explains the link between UVB and a host of health conditions, including its critical role in memory – and makes some practical recommendations on how to boost your intake. That’s particularly important as we get older – this paper describes the link between Vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline including memory loss in older people. – Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health

Given that those of us living above the 33rd parallel simply can’t get enough UVB from natural daylight for up to six months of the year, this Nature paper offers some promising results for highly targeted treatment – a narrow band light source (293nm), found to be 2.4 times more efficient in producing vitamin D3 than the sun in less than 1/60th the time in samples of human skin – Ultraviolet B Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) Are More Efficient and Effective in Producing Vitamin D3 in Human Skin Compared to Natural Sunlight

Burnt out on bright light?

The alerting effects of bright, particularly ‘cool’ light are well-documented – as this extensive review points out – Alerting effects of light in healthy individuals a systematic review and meta-analysis But just turning up the volume is not necessarily the right thing to do if you want to work more effectively and to remember more. This study points out that short wavelength light (6500k in this study) can help with sustained attention. But it is less clear-cut for creative reasoning tasks that demand higher executive functioning – Non-Visual Effects of Light on Melatonin, Alertness and Cognitive Performance: Can Blue-Enriched Light Keep Us Alert?

Memory magic…

I’m reading ‘Limitles’ by the truly memorable and remarkable Jim Kwik – brilliant practical tips to boost your memory, and ability to learn with confidence. – Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life Hardcover – 7 April 2020 His story resonated with me as his passion was sparked by a head injury. I’m enjoying his mind-bending podcasts too – Get Superhuman Memory in 31 Days

Counting calories with your eyes…

You make a visual assessment of the calorie density of a food and make choices on that basis… – Food’s visually perceived fat content affects discrimination speed in an orthogonal spatial task

Blinking boosts bonding with your pet…

This article explains how synchronised blinking indicates social connection between primates and suggests the same happens with your dog or cat – blinking at a cat increases approach behaviour and a pet will blink around 1 second after their owner, while pets and people who are not affiliated will not synchronise. – Mutual synchronization of eyeblinks between dogs/cats and humans

and one for the gardeners…

Lighting can make your tomatoes tastier

The wavelengths in the light source affects the taste of the food you grow… – Lighting Experiment and Sensory Panel

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