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Learn While Sleeping

Learn While Sleeping

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First Posted: Aug 28, 2012 07:22 AM EDT
Sleeping Child
Olfactory Conditioning Helps With The Possibility Of Sleep-Learning (Photo : Reuters)

The new study published in the Journal Nature Neuroscience suggests that people may be able to learn while they are sleeping. 

Professor Noam Sobel, research student Anat Arzi, Sobel's team from Israel's Weizmann Institute's Neurobiology Department, and experts from Loewenstein Hospital and the Academic College of Tel Aviv- Jaffa conducted the study with type of conditioning that involved exposing subjects to a tone followed by an odour so that they produce the similar responses to the tone as they would to the odor. 

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According to the Medical News Today, "There have been several past studies explaining the importance of sleep for learning and memory consolidation. However, none of them have been able to show the human brain actually learning new information during sleep."

For the study the sleepers were presented with mask in which both pleasant and unpleasant odors were pumped. The odors ranged from shampoo, perfumes to rotting fish. And a different tone was used to when these smells were produced.

They noticed that every time the sleepers were presented with bad smell breathed shallowly and when they were exposed to pleasant good smell they inhaled deeply. They eventually responded this way to smell-associated tones regardless of whether the smell was present. The sleeping brain acts much as it does when awake.

"The common knowledge is that you cannot learn new information while you're asleep, even though your brain is able to do so many other things while you are asleep," said the study's lead author, Anat Arzi, a graduate student at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel was quoted in The New York Times.

The next experiment the researchers divided the sleep cycles into rapid eye movement (REM) or non REM sleep. They noticed the REM phase showed a more distinct learning response.

Soebl and Arzi were quoted in Medical News Today stating, "REM sleep may make us more open to stimuli in the environment, but "dream amnesia" (which makes people forget their dreams) may operate on any conditioning during that stage. Non-REM sleep, they explained, is important for consolidating memory, so it could also be playing a role in this form of sleep-learning."

 

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