A small but interesting study from University of California, Davis has found that being in a state of curiosity can prime the brain for better learning. In the study, which involved 19 people, the researchers found that asking questions that made the participants curious led to better performance on a subsequent memory task.
Why does this happen? The scientists looked at brain scans to help them determine which brain pathways were involved in the process. They found that the curiosity had already activated the brain’s reward network, which in turn got the hippocampus–the brain’s memory center–more alert and engaged. Because of these “pre-activations” the brain was more likely to remember something they learned directly afterwards, and recall it accurately later.
So if you want to really remember something, try thinking about something that makes you curious right before you learn it. I might have to try this next time I am meeting a bunch of new people!
You can read more about this and related studies at Scientific American.