Memories can be reactivated during sleep and strengthened in the process, Northwestern University research suggests.
Sleep-learning new material?
The age-old myth that you can learn a foreign language while you sleep is sure to come to mind, said Paul J. Reber, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern and a co-author of the study.
“The critical difference is that our research shows that memory is strengthened for something you’ve already learned,” Reber said. “Rather than learning something new in your sleep, we’re talking about enhancing an existing memory by re-activating information recently acquired.”
The researchers, he said, are now thinking about how their findings could apply to many other types of learning.
“If you were learning how to speak in a foreign language during the day, for example, and then tried to reactivate those memories during sleep, perhaps you might enhance your learning.”
Paller said he hopes the study will help them learn more about the basic brain mechanisms that transpire during sleep to help preserve memory storage.
“These same mechanisms may not only allow an abundance of memories to be maintained throughout a lifetime, but they may also allow memory storage to be enriched through the generation of novel connections among memories,” he said.
The study opens the door for future studies of sleep-based memory processing for many different types of motor skills, habits and behavioral dispositions, Paller said.
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Via Sakis Koukouvis