A new study proves that even while you’re sleeping, your mind absorbs information as if you’re awake.
Many people believe that learning can happen even in sleep, and although it’s been very hard for scientists to conduct experiments related to this, a new study reported by ScienceDaily.com may hold the key to opening the door to unconscious information absorption.
Professor Noam Sobel, a research student Anat Arzi, and a team from the Weizmann Institute's Neurobiology Department, in collaboration with researchers from Loewenstein Hospital and the Academic College of Tel Aviv–Jaffa, studied sleep conditioning using sound and scent. In one experiment, sleeping participants were played a certain tone shortly before being presented with a nice odor, while another tone was played before a foul odor. This was done repetitively throughout the night until their sleep cycles were completed.
Upon waking up, the participants were played the same two tones, and although they didn’t have any recollection of what went on the previous night, researchers observed that their noses did. Upon hearing the tone associated with good odor, the participants’ breathing pattern changed to slow and deep, while hearing the tone for bad odor caused short intakes of breath, and that’s without having them smell the actual scents.
Sobel and Arzi’s team later pinpointed the actual sleep states where mental absorption and association can possibly happen. Learning seemed to occur in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state, in which people often start dreaming, while the transmission of the reinforced condition from sleep to waking happens in the non-REM phase. Therefore, for unconscious learning to work, it’s important for a person to get the right amount of sleep.
This study could prove to be a great help for underperforming children who need supplemental learning sessions, as well as for coma patients who have long been in their altered state of consciousness. For now, Sobel and Arzi’s team continues their research to test the limits of their discovery.
(Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr Creative Commons)