Events of the day are rehearsed in sleep.
© Getty Images
Land of nod is a learning experience
Cramming all night might help you to scrape through exams, but it won’t make you clever in the long run. Human and animal experiments are lending new support to a common parental adage: that a good night’s sleep is essential to learning.
"Modern life’s erosion of sleep time could be seriously short-changing our education potential," warned Robert Stickgold of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston this week.
As pet owners have long suspected, the same may apply to animals. Daniel Margoliash of University of Chicago has found evidence that young birds rehearse their new songs while sleeping. The brain cells that fire when birds make their first faltering efforts at singing show similar activity when they nap. "Birds dream of singing," says Margoliash.
Rats, meanwhile, rehearse running in their sleep. After navigating a spiral maze all day, the rodents’ brains replay electrical signals that are characteristic of the motion throughout the night, Matthew Wilson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the meeting.
"Just like our own dreams, the replay can be recognisable but warped; some events are stretched out over time and others never really happened," said Wilson. He believes that new experiences are generalized and re-evaluated during sleep.
SARA ABDULLA | © Nature News Service
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