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Staggered lessons may work better

Training at irregular intervals improves learning in sea snails

11:21am, December 26, 2011

Sea snails learn more effectively on an oddly timed series of training sessions rather than regularly spaced lessons, a new study finds. If the results extend to humans, they might suggest ways of improving students’ study habits.

The work, published online December 25 in Nature Neuroscience, shows how a deep knowledge of biology and powerful computer models can lead to insights about the brain, says neuroscientist Eric Kandel of Columbia University, who won a Nobel prize in 2000 for his work on sea snail memory.

When the rat-sized Aplysia californica receives an unpleasant shock, it retracts its gill and an appendage called a siphon. After numerous shocks, it will become sensitized, learning to retract the siphon and keep it in for a while.

Scientists normally expose sea snails to the signal at regular intervals over several hours to sensitize the animals. But Jack Byrne of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and co

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