The idea that the human brain can learn in its sleep is said to date back to ancient Egypt, with the earliest modern studies documented in 1893. Since then, science has greatly advanced, which is evident based on a recent study led by neuroscientist Thomas Andrillon, PhD, that was recently published in the journal Nature Communications suggesting that the brain is still capable of learning and creating new memories, depending upon what stage of sleep you are in.
With the use of electroencephalograms (EEG), 20 participants' brain's electrical activity was measured while awake, in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, and in Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. Before the participants slept, Andrillon and his researchers instructed the participants to discriminate the samples of novel, repeating, acoustic patterns that had been embedded within Gaussian (white) noise. Upon waking, the participants were asked to identify the patterns once again. This time, 100 percent of the participants recognized the patterns that were played during their REM and light NREM stage of sleep, while 0 percent recognized the patterns that were played during their deep NREM stage of sleep. The study also led to the suggestion that if presented with stimuli while in deep NREM sleep, memories and previously learned information may result in being suppressed and conclusively have a negatively affect subsequent learning when awake.
"The sleeping brain is including a lot of information that is happening outside, and processing it to quite an impressive degree of complexity," Andrillon told the Washington Post.
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