Humans Can Learn New Information While They Sleep

sleepBel Marra Health, who offers high-quality, specially formulated vitamins and nutritional supplements, reports on new research published in the Nature Neuroscience Journal, that demonstrates the brain’s ability to learn and retain information during sleep.

As Bel Marra Health reports in its article (http://www.belmarrahealth.com/brain-function/new-study-shows-that-learning-can-happen-in-your-sleep/), the methods of the study were based upon Pavlovian theories of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning involves pairing two elements, and conditioning people or animals to anticipate one element whenever they are exposed to the other element.

While participants slept, researchers of the Weizmann Institute played a tone of music and followed it with an odor to induce sniffing. Later, when the participants were awake, the researchers played the tone without presenting an odor. Despite having no conscious memory of hearing the tone, the subjects responded to the sound by sniffing, despite no odor being present.

Researchers then set out to see if they could induce more than one learned response – to sniff deeply or to avoid sniffing. The subjects were grouped, and one group was exposed to a tone followed by a pleasant odor, while the other group was exposed to a tone followed by an unpleasant odor. When they awoke the next day, they heard the tones again. Although they had no conscious memories of having heard the tones before, the group that had been exposed to the pleasant odors inhaled deeply when they heard the tones while awake, while the other group took short, shallow sniffs when exposed to the tones in a waking state.

These trials demonstrated that a learned response had been acquired while the subject was sleeping. Further repetition of the trials revealed that the most pronounced learning occurred during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, when the muscles of the body are more relaxed but the brain and body systems become more active.

This breaking study paves the way for further research on which kinds of information can and cannot be learned during sleep, and whether this type of brain processing might also be possible in other altered states of consciousness, such as a coma.

- Courtesy of PRWeb

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