It's never too late to learn... even when we're fast asleep
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 27 August 2012
Good news for dozy students at the back of the class – scientists have shown that it is possible to learn new things while asleep.
A study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that volunteers were able to recall something they had heard while slumbering when they awoke the next day, even though they had no memory of being taught.
The experiment focused on teaching the brain to associate particular sounds and smells – as people can be exposed to these stimuli without waking up. Researchers monitored the sleeping volunteers' nostril movements and found that the pleasant scent of shampoo, for instance, led to deep intakes of air, while the unpleasant odour of rotting fish caused the volunteers to briefly stop inhaling.
As the night progressed, the sleeping individuals learnt to associate the sound of particular tones with certain smells. For instance, they breathed more deeply when played the positive tone even when no smell was present.
"The next day, the now awake subjects again heard the tones alone – with no accompanying odour. Although they had no conscious recollection of listening to them during the night, their breathing patterns told a different story," said a spokesman for the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. "When exposed to tones that had been paired with pleasant odours, they sniffed deeply, while the second tones – those associated with bad smells – provoked short, shallow sniffs," he added.
Anat Arzi, a research student at Weizmann who carried out the study, said: "The common knowledge is that although the sleeping brain can process, consolidate and strengthen information, it cannot learn new information. We showed that it could." He added: "There will be clear limits on what we can learn in sleep, but I speculate that they will be beyond what we have demonstrated."
The researchers intend to continue investigating other types of brain processing in various altered states of consciousness such as sleep and coma.
filmNymphomaniac is more Carl Dreyer than sexploitation of Russ Meyer
scienceScientists find the answer to a question that even puzzled Darwin
arts + entsThe 'Friends' actor on his new role as campaigner on addiction issues
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
Colin Farrell reveals ‘affair’ with Elizabeth Taylor: 'She was my last romantic relationship'
Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
India-US row over escalates over arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York
Peter O'Toole: Tales of the late film icon
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 Facebook 'self-censorship': study records when you don't post to find more ways to share
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 Vitamin pills are a waste of money, offer no health benefits and could be harmful - study
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: Senior C# ASP.NET Deve...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: Senior QA Engineer Tes...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: QA Automation Explorat...
£50000 - £75000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Implementation...