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A simple technique could boost our short and long-term memory (Credit: Getty Images)

The remarkable memory-boosting benefits of undisturbed rest were first documented in 1900 by the German psychologist Georg Elias Muller and his student Alfons Pilzecker. In one of their many experiments on memory consolidation , Muller and Pilzecker first asked their participants to learn a list of meaningless syllables. Following a short study period, half the group were immediately given a second list to learn – while the rest were given a six-minute break before continuing.

When tested one-and-a-half-hours later, the two groups showed strikingly different patterns of recall. The participants given the break remembered nearly 50% of their list, compared to an average of 28% for the group who had been given no time to recharge their mental batteries. The finding suggested that our memory for new information is especially fragile just after it has first been encoded, making it more susceptible to interference from new information.

Although a handful of other psychologists occasionally returned to the finding, it was only in the early 2000s that the broader implications of it started to become known, with a pioneering study by Sergio Della Sala at the University of Edinburgh and Nelson Cowan at the University of Missouri.

We could all do with fewer distractions in our lives (Credit: Getty Images)

The team was interested in discovering whether reduced interference might improve the memories of people who had suffered a neurological injury, such as a stroke. Using a similar set-up to Muller and Pilzecker’s original study, they presented their participants with lists of 15 words and tested them 10 minutes later. In some trials, the participants remained busy with some standard cognitive tests; in others, they were asked to lie in a darkened room and avoid falling asleep.

It seems to benefit young and old people alike

The impact of the small intervention was more profound than anyone might have believed. Although the two most severely amnesic patients showed no benefit, the others tripled the number of words they could remember – from 14% to 49%, placing them almost within the range of healthy people with no neurological damage.

The next results were even more impressive. The participants were asked to listen to some stories and answer questions an hour later. Without the chance to rest, they could recall just 7% of the facts in the story; with the rest, this jumped to 79% – an astronomical 11-fold increase in the information they retained. The researchers also found a similar, though less pronounced, benefit for healthy participants in each case, boosting recall between 10 and 30%.

Della Sala and Cowan’s former student, Michaela Dewar at Heriot-Watt University, has now led several follow-up studies, replicating the finding in many different contexts . In healthy participants, they have found that these short periods of rest can also improve our spatial memories, for instance – helping participants to recall the location of different landmarks in a virtual reality environment . Crucially, this advantage lingers a week after the original learning task , and it seems to benefit young and old people alike. And besides the stroke survivors, they have also found similar benefits for people in the earlier, milder stages of Alzheimer’s disease .

The logistics of moving people may be handled in two ways. Individuals can be given instructions to meet at a certain point, nearby or far away. They then assume responsibility for making their own travel arrangements and showing up as directed. If larger groups of people are to be moved, a firm may assume responsibility and charter a bus or airplane and arrange for lodging. When the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was built during the 1970s, it was necessary to build housing for the construction workers and to continually supply them with food and other goods. On an international scale, some nations often supply the work force used in other nations. The workers are recruited in their home country and moved to where they are needed.

The discussion to this point has emphasized domestic logistics— i.e., that carried on within the borders of one nation. International logistics involves movements across borders, and these movements are considered more complex for several reasons. First, there are delays at the border. Goods must be inspected, and often import duties, or charges, are assessed. Additional inspections at the border may be conducted to determine whether the goods meet that nation’s health, safety, environmental protection, and labeling standards. Most nations of the world—although not the United States—insist that metric measurements be used. Many documents are required for international shipments, and often the logistic efforts involved in assembling the documents are more challenging than those in moving the product. Usually all documents must be present at the point where the goods are passing through the importing nation’s customs and inspection posts. Many international movements go aboard ship, and the process of moving through ports and being at sea is more time-consuming. Differences between time zones limit the hours when communications can take place.

While they do not move large tonnages of product, service industries have logistical needs of their own. Their transportation needs are met by the postal service or carriers of small parcels that make overnight deliveries. Banks must process checks quickly and deliver cashed checks to the issuing bank promptly. Often service industries process paper records and must set up steps to move papers that are analogous to procedures that manufacturing firms employ to move goods. Linked computers are used increasingly for many of these paperwork-integrating tasks. Hospitals must have medicines and a wide range of materials and supplies ready for use. Before a surgeon is scheduled to perform a procedure, the needed instruments must be selected, placed in their order of use, sterilized, and held ready.

The individual elements of a firm’s logistics system must be tied together. The firm’s management may have a separate logistics department that is equal in status with other major departments such as finance, production, marketing, and so on. However, most firms are more likely to have these functions spread throughout various departments loosely coordinated by a logistics staff. (A more traditional firm had its logistics activities associated with inbound and interplant movements handled by the production staff, and these activities grouped were known as “materials management.” The traditional firm’s logistics activities involving outbound products leaving the assembly line and bound for customers were handled by the marketing staff, and these activities grouped were known as “physical distribution management.”) Today, some firms rely on “third-party” logistics, wherein they contract with an outside firm to coordinate, manage, and sometimes perform the various functions.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an umbrella organization of over 230 national diabetes associations in 170 countries and territories. It represents the interests of the growing number of people with diabetes and those at risk. The Federation has been leading the global diabetes community since 1950.

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