Implicit Vocabulary Learning during Sleep Is Bound to Slow-Wave Peaks

11 Feb Implicit Vocabulary Learning during Sleep Is Bound to Slow-Wave Peaks

Sleep is considered a recurring, reversible behavioural state of perceptual disengagement from and unresponsiveness to the environment.1 However with only so many hours in the day, it would certainly be convenient if we could learn material/information while asleep. It’s a shame we are “unresponsive” to the environment… Or are we?

Zust et al recently published a study in the journal Current Biology that looked at the possibility of learning of complex new information during sleep. They aimed to have human subjects encode verbal material presented while asleep and then to test retention of the information following waking. They provided word pairs at very precise moments during certain stages of sleep and then tested the recall the following day.

They concluded that humans can encode verbal associative information (word pairs) during slow-wave sleep. That memory was best for pairs that were encoded in sync with ongoing slow-wave peaks, and that slow-wave sleep appears to entail windows of opportunity for synaptic potentiation. They also found hippocampus mediated retrieval of this information, suggesting episodic memory formation during sleep.

Citation:

Zust et al., Implicit Vocabulary Learning during Sleep Is Bound to Slow-Wave Peaks, Current Biology (2019), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.12.038

Reference:

  • Buysse DJ. Sleep health: can we define it? Does it matter?. Sleep. 2014;37(1):9-17. Published 2014 Jan 1. doi:10.5665/sleep.3298
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