The Eyes and Memory

Have you ever walked into a room and forgot what you were doing? Or perhaps forgotten what you had spent all night studying? Surely you have heard of the trick of looking left and right to get the different parts of your brain to interact with each other and understand. Researchers published more recent studies in the journal PNAS reveal connections between eye movements and seeing those vastly important, but seemingly untraceable, memories. In day-to-day life, your brain often fills in spaces from partial input. You are in the room, but why? You have read about this a hundred times, but what does it have to do with this question? How is it that the eye can help you to remember things? What is their relation to our brains?

You may have heard of the trick of using horizontal eye movements to get your memory going, looking right to left to jumpstart your brain. The Saccade-Induced Retrieval Enhancement. Two experiments were performed comparing horizontal and vertical eye movements. This is actually a false theory. Not because the eye has no relation to the brain, but rather that the statistics showed that the effect was inconsistent.

It was recently observed that when you are presented with an incomplete item, you will look to regions that you have viewed during the encoding of a similar item. Your brain likes patterns. When looking at just certain parts of someone’s face, your brain will fill in the rest of the face to see if this is someone that you know. It wants to do as little work as possible, because it is already doing so much more. When it comes to memory, it would rather follow a pattern and give you an answer.

This also applies to sight. Rather than absorb the whole picture or show you something that is incomplete, it wants to give you the answer. It wants to follow the pattern. The same with an incomplete picture. Your eyes track regions of similar items or instances and fills in the rest from there, following a pattern of important features that you have seen in something you have seen before. This theory has been proven positive through watching where a person’s eye goes when studying similar objects. With this proven fact, the connection between the eye and memory makes more sense than “activating” or “stimulating” it. The use of the eyes to create and observe patterns, which the brain is known to be looking for, gives options on how to use this in the medical field. The use of the eye is not to empower our brain, but it gives us insight on how it works.

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