Are you having trouble mastering your command of a foreign language? Or worse, do you have a recital coming up and you just can’t seem to get the beat down properly despite hours of practice? According to new research, a nap may be just the thing you need to get it right the next time.
According to Science Daily, a recent study by Northwestern University found that memories can be reactivated during sleep, causing retention and processing to become stronger when the sleeper is presented with external stimulation.
The study draws from existing research in the field. Participants in the study were asked to play two musical tunes featuring key presses, reports the source. While the participants took a 90-minute nap, the researchers played one of the melodies presented to the participants and used an EEG device to monitor brain activity.
To measure the effects of external stimulation and the part of the brain that controls memory, researchers introduced the musical cues during slow-wave sleep. Past research has shown that this stage is connected to memories. When the participants roused from their naps, they made fewer errors on the melody that had played while they slept.
“The critical difference is that our research shows that memory is strengthened for something you’ve already learned,” said study co-author Paul J. Reber. “Rather than learning something new in your sleep, we’re talking about enhancing an existing memory by re-activating information recently acquired.”
According to researchers, the study results suggest that the brain can make memory improvements during sleep. While the study only tested musical retention, researchers are now curious about how this could apply to motor skills, behavioral tendencies and other disciplines of learning, like foreign languages.
“If you were learning how to speak in a foreign language during the day, for example, and then tried to reactivate those memories during sleep, perhaps you might enhance your learning,” added Reber.
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