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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.

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