To jog your memory, forget

January 29, 2008 7:04:02 AM PST
You know the feeling - a name, a place on the tip of your tongue. But you can't remember. Scientists say concentrating only makes the problem worse.

You're wracking your brain, trying to remember a word or a name, or solve a problem, then suddenly, out of the blue, you get it! It's called an "aha moment."

Scientists in London, who've been studying our thought processes, have now identified the brain wave correlate of the "aha" moment.

Joydeep Bhattacharya, the lead researcher on a study conducted by the psychology department at the University of London's Goldsmiths College, says results show that the best thing to do may just be to try and forget about whatever it is you're trying to remember.

''You have to be relaxed, to allow the spontaneous, free-floating ideas to emerge.'' Bhattacharya explained.

In fact, concentrating too hard could only make it worse.

''If you focus too much, you fixate on a particular aspect, and then you are missing the global picture, and that is definitely not helpful," Bhattacharya said.

So, the next time you have a mental block, just ignore it.

''If you cannot solve it, take one step back, do something else, and then let your unconscious side of the brain work on it," explained Bhattacharya.

Scientists used electroencephalography (EEG) helmets with electrodes to study the brain rhythms of volunteers while they solved verbal problems.

In results published in PLoS ONE, a science research journal, on Jan. 23, Bhattacharya's team said they found that particular brain wave patterns were associated with a mental block, and also, with a mental breakthrough.

They gave participants clues, and found they could often predict whether people would be able to use the clue by the brain wave's patterns.

Each problem consisted of three test words. Volunteers had to guess one word that would form a compound word, or phrase, with each of the three test words. Those whose brain waves indicated a state of mental block, were less likely to use the clues.

Not ABC News correspondent Lama Hasan, though, who was given the words "man," "sleep" and "cat." Clear thinking Hasan guessed the missing corresponding word: "walk."