Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | April 24, 2010

Dreaming of Learning helps Learning

Dreaming of a Learning Task Is Associated with Enhanced Sleep-Dependent Memory Consolidation, by

Erin J. Wamsley,Matthew Tucker,Jessica D. Payne,Joseph A. Benavides,Robert Stickgold .

Summary:

It is now well established that postlearning sleep is beneficial for human memory performance [1,2,3,4,5]. Meanwhile, human and animal studies have demonstrated that learning-related neural activity is re-expressed during posttraining nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep [6,7,8,9]. NREM sleep processes appear to be particularly beneficial for hippocampus-dependent forms of memory [1,2,3,10]. These observations suggest that learning triggers the reactivation and reorganization of memory traces during sleep, a systems-level process that in turn enhances behavioral performance. Here, we hypothesized that dreaming about a learning experience during NREM sleep would be associated with improved performance on a hippocampus-dependent spatial memory task. Subjects were trained on a virtual navigation task and then retested on the same task 5 hr after initial training. Improved performance at retest was strongly associated with task-related dream imagery during an intervening afternoon nap. Task-related thoughts during wakefulness, in contrast, did not predict improved performance. These observations suggest that sleep-dependent memory consolidation in humans is facilitated by the offline reactivation of recently formed memories, and furthermore that dream experiences reflect this memory processing. That similar effects were not observed during wakefulness suggests that these mnemonic processes are specific to the sleep state.

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Responses

  1. It fits very well with the way you were taught in that “elitist” high school in Novosibirsk: less busy work, more meaningful and inspiring ideas, more time to think and digest them.

  2. @misha: I wholeheartedly agree with you. By the way, there was no TV at the boarding school. And Thursdays was free of classes. I spent Thursdays lying in bed and reading books in English — starting with R. L. Stevenson, for the exceptional simplicity and clarity of his language, Oscar Wilde — for the same reason, and gradually making a slow way up to Laurence Sterne — my overflow blog is called “A Sentimental Journey” for good reason — and Henry Fielding. Oh sweet times!

    Actually, the best part of the old style Soviet school system was a glorious summer break, uninterrupted 3 months of summer vacations. May, the last month before the break, was usually devoted to revision — but without exams at the end! Instead, revision was followed by a long, long period of quiet recuperation.

    Alan Sillitoe died yesterday; he was the best proof that, for the sake of their education, some people simply have to be given time of their own and access to books. Sillitoe famously self-educated himself and started to write in a tuberculosis sanatorium.

  3. “Newborn infants learn while asleep; study may lead to later disability tests”


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