Lehrer and the Neurocritic: Marathons and Memories

August 16, 2009 at 3:49 am Leave a comment

From Jonah Lehrer:

The Neurocritic has a fascinating summary of a recent paper investigating different types of memory in marathon runners.

The scientists hypothesized that finishing a marathon would wreak havoc on our explicit memory system, while leaving implicit memory largely intact.

The experiment itself was straightforward: 261 marathoners running in either the New York City Marathon or the Boston Marathon were given two different verbal memory tests, targeting the different memory pathways. 141 of the runners were tested within 30 min of finishing the race (when their cortex was still flush with cortisol) while the other 120 were tested 1-3 days before the race (this was the control group).

The end result? The group that had just finished the marathon showed a significant decline in explicit memory. They were less able to consciously recall a series of words that they had been shown only a few minutes earlier. However, after running 26.2 miles the marathoners actually showed a large improvement in implicit memory. In other words, the extreme stress and utter physical exhaustion sharpened their ability to act on information stored in their unconscious.

Lehrer’s entry can be found here; Neurocritic’s “I just finished the Boston Marathon! (But I can’t remember your name)” is here.

play, think…
J.R. Atwood

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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