People can learn new information while sleeping
People also learn during sleep. An Israeli research team led by Anat Arzi from the Institute of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science has found that simple relationships can be saved during sleep.
Learning while sleeping It has long been known that memories previously acquired during sleep are strengthened and processed, but whether completely new information can be recorded remained unknown, the researchers justify in the journal "Nature Neuroscience" their current investigation. They therefore tested with a number of volunteers whether simple relationships between certain smells and sounds can also be learned during sleep.
For their study, the researchers used an effect that they call the "non-verbal type of olfactory taster response". Subconsciously, this leads to people sniffing more (pleasantly through their noses) than pleasant smells. In a first step, they presented the subjects with a combination of certain sounds and smells while sleeping. The smells ranged from the unpleasant stench of rotting fish to fragrant shampoos.
Combination of sounds and smells learned during sleep The study participants automatically breathed in much more deeply with the pleasant scents than with the stench of the dead fish. In the second step of the experiment, the Israeli researchers only sounded the sounds - without any particular smell. Surprisingly, the test persons breathed in significantly more deeply with the tones that were previously associated with a pleasant smell than with the tones that were associated with unpleasant smells. In addition, "they maintained this behavior even when awake," report Anat Arzi and colleagues. Apparently, the brain cells for the sense of hearing and smell were awake enough at night to store new connections. The Israeli researchers explained that the mental link between the smells and sounds was created during sleep. After waking up, the study participants were not aware of the learning process.
Complex knowledge cannot be saved in sleep. However, the scientists led by Anat Arzi slow down the hope that sleep can be used to absorb new knowledge in the future - which would not only be a desirable learning method for those who are learning and lazy. "The simplest connections, such as the combination of certain tones and smells, can be learned in sleep, but more complex knowledge can probably not be recorded in this way," the Israeli researchers report in the current article. Learning a foreign language or math in your sleep remains a utopia. It is now clear, however, that people can generally record new information even while sleeping. (fp)
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