December 15, 2019
Recent Swiss research found evidence to support sleep learning. Of course, listening to French on tape while you sleep is unlikely to give you the chance to speak a foreign language the next morning. But this practice can improve your ability to learn new vocabulary, according to a study published in the scientific journal Current Biology.
Researchers know that sleep plays an important role in the learning process. While we are in the arms of Morpheus, our brains are busy organizing and consolidating the information and events that we experienced that day. Important memories are archived, while unimportant things are removed. However, scientists did not believe that it was possible to learn new things while we sleep. They thought our brains were too focused on night cleaning to learn. But apparently this is not the case.
About the study
A study from the University of Bern in Switzerland showed that the brain’s channels for learning are also open during sleep. The researchers sought to determine whether people could form meaningful associations between foreign words and their translations in their sleep. The German-speaking study participants slept listening to pseudo words of a non-existent foreign language and their corresponding translations. The goal was to see if the words left some kind of trace in the memory, even if the person was on an unconscious level. When they woke up, the participants were presented with the pseudowords again, but this time without translation. They then asked study participants to imagine an object that represented each pseudoword in their minds and to classify them by size. The researchers found that the participants could correctly classify foreign words with an accuracy rate 10 percent higher than random probability.
In the future, thanks to this research, there could be practical applications to help people with learning difficulties or attention deficits. Also older people who experience cognitive decline would benefit. At present, the study shows us that the concept of dream learning may be more reality than fiction.
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