Posted on Feb 01, 2019, 6 p.m.
A new study from the University of Bern shows that people can learn from scratch while they are in slumber, as published in the journal Current Biology.
Delicate neurological connections forming the basis of memory have been shown to strengthen during deep sleep, and previous studies have shown words learned during consciousness can be consolidated by being repeated to a sleeping person. This research shows sleeping people can be introduced to word associated for the first time and are able recall them while awake.
Sleeping participants were introduced to new words in a made up language along with a correspondent word in their native tongue, such as German for key was linked to the made up word tofer, and German for elephant was linked to made up word guga. When subjects woke they were asked which up the made up words represented something small and which was large; correct answers were at such a rate it convinced the researchers that it was not fluke.
Language areas of the hippocampus and brain were activated during wake retrieval of sleep learned vocabulary which is interesting because the areas normally mediate wake learning of new vocabulary.
According to the researchers this study provided new evidence of sleep learning and challenges theories of sleep and memory, rendering notions of sleep as an encapsulated mental state in which people are detached from the physical environment no longer tenable. Dr. Simon Ruch adds that they may even disprove that sophisticated learning is impossible during sleep.
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