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October 16, 2018 Tuesday 09:40:43 AM IST

Can we learn while sleeping?

Teacher Insights

Researchers of the Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium have shown though human brain is still able to perceive sounds during sleep, it is unable to group these sounds according to their organization in a sequence and thus unable to learn. The result has appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.


Researchers have found that human learning capabilities are limited especially during slow wave sleep. Our brains perceive sounds during sleep. However, the magnetoencephalography (MEG) taken during sleep suggests that while our brain is still able to perceive sounds during sleep, it is unable to group these sounds according to their organization in a sequence.


During 1960s some people believed that humans can learn during sleep (Hypnopedia), e.g. individuals are conditioned to their future tasks during sleep. However, due to lack of scientific evidences it was abandoned. Some recent studies, however, suggested that the acquisition of elementary associations such as stimulus-reflex response is possible during sleep, both in humans and in animals. But, it is not clear if sleep allows for more sophisticated forms of learning.

The results of this study suggest intrinsic limitations in de novo learning during slow wave sleep, that might limit the sleeping brain's learning capabilities to simple, elementary associations.

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-30105-5


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