Monday, August 27, 2012

Sleep Learning Is Possible: Associations Formed When Asleep Remained Intact When Awake


Is sleep learning possible? A new Weizmann Institute study appearing August 26 in Nature Neuroscience has found that if certain odors are presented after tones during sleep, people will start sniffing when they hear the tones alone -- even when no odor is present -- both during sleep and, later, when awake...In the experiments, the subjects slept in a special lab while their sleep state was continuously monitored. (Waking up during the conditioning -- even for a moment -- disqualified the results.) As they slept, a tone was played, followed by an odor -- either pleasant or unpleasant. Then another tone was played, followed by an odor at the opposite end of the pleasantness scale. Over the course of the night, the associations were partially reinforced, so that the subject was exposed to just the tones as well. The sleeping volunteers reacted to the tones alone as if the associated odor were still present -- by either sniffing deeply or taking shallow breaths. The next day, the now awake subjects again heard the tones alone -- with no accompanying odor. Although they had no conscious recollection of listening to them during the night, their breathing patterns told a different story. When exposed to tones that had been paired with pleasant odors, they sniffed deeply, while the second tones -- those associated with bad smells -- provoked short, shallow sniffs. more

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