Doorways act as trigger for brain

A team at the University of Notre Dame says it has discovered the so-called “senior moments” which can leave one utterly bemused and retracing one’s steps may actually be caused by the way the brain processes information as the body leaves one room and enters another.It appears the mind regards a doorway as something experts call an “event boundary”, signalling the end of one memory episode and the beginning of another, according to the psychologists.

In its research, the team found the brain tends to file away events and memories from one room as soon as it exits into another, storing information in successive chapters or episodes.

The research, published in the ‘Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology’, showed doorways act as a kind of trigger for the brain to file one chapter and move on to the next one. The researchers have based their findings on an analysis of an experiment where volunteers used computer keys to navigate their way through 55 “virtual” rooms, large and small. Each room contained one or two tables, with objects the volunteers had to pick up, carry to the next room and set down on a table again.

As soon as they picked them up, the objects disappeared. Throughout the test, they were presented with the name of an object and asked if it was the one that they were currently carrying, or the one they had already put down. The results showed memory performance dipped markedly once they had passed through a doorway, rather than when they covered the same distance but remained in the same room, the Daily Mail reported.

To confirm the findings in real life, the team set up a similar environment of rooms— hiding the objects in boxes the volunteers carried. Again, they found the participants were more likely to forget what they had in the box once they walked through a door into the next room.

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