Some Things You Can Do In Your Sleep, Literally : Health News : NPRPosted: September 11, 2014
For those who find themselves sleeping through work – you may one day find yourself working through sleep.
People who are fast asleep can correctly respond to simple verbal instructions, according to a study by researchers in France. They think this may help explain why you might wake if someone calls your name or why your alarm clock is more likely to rouse you than any other noise.
After people learned to sort words while awake, their brains were able to do the same task while asleep.
Courtesy of Current Biology, Kouider et al.
The connections between sleep, memory and learning aren’t new – but the research is notable for its examination of automatic tasks. The study, published Thursday inCurrent Biology, first recorded the brain waves of people while they were asked to identify spoken words as either animals or objects while they were awake. After each word, the participant pushed a button with either their right hand for animals or their left hand for objects.
The brain map produced by the EEG showed where activity was taking place in the brain and what parts of the brain were being prepped for response. This preparation might include hearing the word elephant and then processing that an elephant is an animal. The participants did this until the task became automatic.
The researchers then lulled the participants to sleep, putting them in a dark room in a reclining chair with closed eyes. Researchers watched them fall into the state between light sleep and the deeper sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). They were then told a new list of words.
This time, their hands didn’t move, but their brains showed the same sorting activity as before. “In a way what’s going on is that the rule they learn and practice, still is getting applied,” Tristan Bekinschtein, one of the authors of the study, told Shots. The human brain continued, when triggered, to respond even through sleep.
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