Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sleep & Memory: Sleeping “Soundly”

A new study examined how sounds affect memory consolidation during sleep.

Participants were taught to associate 50 images with a random location on a computer screen. Each object was paired with a corresponding sound.

About 45 minutes later they took a nap of 90 minutes or less. This was long enough to enter deep,
slow-wave sleep. But they didn’t nap long enough to enter rapid eye movement sleep – or REM sleep.

Twenty-five of the sounds were replayed as they slept. Participants were unaware of the sounds. Then they were tested again after waking from the nap.

Results suggest that the sounds improved their memory. Their performance was more accurate for the 25 objects that had been reinforced by sounds as they slept.

"The research strongly suggests that we don't shut down our minds during deep sleep," lead author John Rudoy said in a Northwestern University
news release. "Rather this is an important time for consolidating memories."

Senior author Ken Paller
told the New York Times that the method probably isn’t useful for teaching new information. But it may reinforce what you’ve already learned.

“One of our speculations is that SAT scores could be improved,” he said. He added that the technique might be able to help football players learn a playbook.

Recently the Sleep Education Blog reported that what you smell during sleep can affect your dreams. Learn more about sleep and memory.

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