Sunday, 30 May 2010
Friday, 21 May 2010
Sleep enable subconscious learning processes to kick into gear and to reinforce what needs to be encoded in memory.
In one experiment two groups of people were taught new typing skills. The first group were denied sleep that night, whilst the second group were allowed a full night's sleep.
The group who were denied sleep had forgotten almost everything they were taught the previous day, whilst the sleep group performed much better.
Researchers played a tune to them, and then followed it with a gentle puff of air to the babies' eyelids. After about 20 minutes, 24 of them had learned to anticipate the puff by squeezing their eyes shut.
The babies' brain waves also changed.
Dana Byrd, a psychologist, said, "We found a basic form of learning in sleeping newborns, a type of learning that may not be seen in sleeping adults.
"They are better learners, better 'data sponges' than we knew. While past studies find this type of learning can occur in infants who are awake, this is the first study to document it in their most frequent state, while they are asleep.
"Newborn infants' sleep patterns are quite different to those of older children or adults in that they show more active sleep where heart and breathing rates are very changeable.
"It may be this sleep state is more amenable to experiencing the world in a way that facilitates learning."
The results, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could be used to identify babies that are not developing properly such as those at risk of dyslexia or autism, she added.