Wednesday, November 03, 2010
The best way of learning something? Sleep on it.
Getting information into one's long-term memory has been compared to pouring water into a bottle with a narrow neck; it holds a lot but it is difficult to get it in in the first place. A new study by researchers at York University and Harvard Medical School suggests that one of the best ways of doing this could be to sleep on it. The researchers got two groups of volunteers to learn new words. One group learnt them in the evening and were tested in the evening. The group who slept on things, as it were, remembered more words and could recognise them faster. By studying these participants' brain waves the researchers found that it was deep sleep - rather than rapid-eye-movement (REM) or light sleep - that did most to consolidate memory. Sleep spindles, which are sharp bursts of activity reflecting information transfer between the neorcortex on the surface of the brain and the hippocampus deep within it, were particularly associated with memory consolidation.