Sleep Appears to Aid Learning11/04/10
THURSDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- If you're trying to learn a
new word, you may want to sleep on it, a new study suggests.
Researchers taught volunteers new words in the evening and then
immediately tested their recall of the words. The volunteers slept
in the laboratory while their brain activity was recorded. Tests
conducted the next morning showed that the participants could
remember and recognize more words than they did immediately after
This improvement was not seen in another group of participants
who learned new words and were tested in the morning and re-tested
in the evening, with no sleep in between tests.
The brain activity data collected from the volunteers in the
sleep group showed that deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) helped
strengthen their memories of new words.
The researchers also found that a type of brain activity called
sleep spindles played a role in the ability to remember new words.
Sleep spindles are brief but intense bursts of activity that
indicate information transfer between two different memory storage
areas, the hippocampus and the neocortex.
The more sleep spindles a person experienced during sleep, the
more successful they were in using new words in their
"We suspected from previous work that sleep had a role to play in the reorganization of new memories, but this is the first time we've really been able to observe it in action, and understand the importance of spindle activity in the process," study co-author Gareth Gaskell, a professor in the psychology department at the University of York in England, said in a university news release.
The study was published Nov. 2 in the
Journal of Neuroscience.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health explains that a
nap is better than caffeine for enhancing
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