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Don’t Forget These Glasses!

August 9, 2012

Feeling a little forgetful lately? Leaving your full coffee mug on the kitchen table or walking into a room and then forgetting why you entered in the first place? It happens to the best of us. But now, researchers at Duke think that as long as you remember your glasses, your short-term memory might actually improve!

However, you’re going to need some pretty fancy glasses to achieve a boosted memory. Stroboscopic eyewear, a pair of glasses with lenses that limit your vision to brief, strobe-like snapshots, are actually capable of training your brain to expand your short-term memory. The glasses used by these researchers were made by Nike.

In the study, participants played a game of catch wearing either the Nike SPARQ stroboscopic lenses or clear lenses. Afterwards, participants completed an online memory test in which 8 letters of the alphabet simultaneously flashed on the screen. Volunteers were then asked to name one of the letters in the sequence either directly after or up to 2.5 seconds after. Since participants did not know which letter they’d be asked to remember, they were forced to remember them all. The study showed that participants wearing the stroboscopic eyewear had better recall, and their tuned memory lasted for 24 hours.

The strobe-like vision makes it harder to react to moving objects, forcing wearers to adapt the way their process visual information. This makes their perception stronger and helps with short-term memory tests such as this one. Nike says that their glasses help athletes with their vision and cognition on the field. Athletes will better remember where their teammates are on the field and will better see their moving opponents. The participants in this study were in fact athletes from Duke’s men’s and women’s soccer teams and their men’s basketball team, in addition to nonathletic members of the Duke community. None of the athletes had balance problems due to the choppy vision through the glasses, and many even asked if they could participate in further studies using the glasses.

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