Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sleep Boosts Ability To Learn Language, University Of Chicago Researchers Find

Date:
October 9, 2003
Source:
University Of Chicago Medical Center
Summary:
Scientists at the University of Chicago have demonstrated that sleeping has an important and previously unrecognized impact on improving people's ability to learn language.

Scientists at the University of Chicago have demonstrated that sleeping has an important and previously unrecognized impact on improving people's ability to learn language.

Related Articles


Researchers find that ability of students to retain knowledge about words is improved by sleep, even when the students seemed to forget some of what they learned during the day before the next night's sleep. This paper, "Consolidation During Sleep of Perceptual Learning of Spoken Language," is being published in the Thursday, Oct. 9 issue of the journal Nature. The paper was prepared by researcher Kimberly Fenn, Howard Nusbaum, Professor of Psychology, and Daniel Margoliash, Professor in Organismal Biology and Anatomy.

"Sleep has at least two separate effects on learning," the authors write. "Sleep consolidates memories, protecting them against subsequent interference or decay. Sleep also appears to 'recover' or restore memories."

Scientists have long hypothesized that sleep has an impact on learning, but the new study is the first to provide scientific evidence that brain activity promotes higher-level types of learning while we sleep.

Although the study dealt specifically with word learning, the findings may be relevant to other learning, Nusbaum said. "We have known that people learn better if they learn smaller bits of information over a period of days rather than all at once. This research could show how sleep helps us retain what we learn."

In fact, the idea for the study arose from discussions Nusbaum and Fenn had with Margoliash, who studies vocal (song) learning in birds. "We were surprised several years ago to discover that birds apparently 'dream of singing' and this might be important for song learning," Margoliash said.

"Ultimately, our discussions stimulated a research design first proposed by Kim Fenn. The interdisciplinary nature of the research and the free exchange of ideas between animal and human work is also very exciting for us," Margoliash added.

For their study, the team tested college student understanding of a series of common words produced in a mechanical, robotic way by a voice synthesizer that made the words difficult to understand. They first measured the students' ability to recognize the words. They then trained them to recognize the words and then tested them again to see how effective the training was.

None of the students heard the same word more than once, so they had to learn how to figure out the pattern of sounds the synthesizer was making. "It is something like learning how to understand someone speaking with a foreign accent." Nusbaum said.

The team tested three groups of students. The control group was tested one hour after they were trained and recognized 54 percent of the words, as opposed to the 21 percent they recognized before training.

The scientists next trained students at 9 a.m. and tested them at 9 p.m., 12 hours later. During that time, the students had lost much of their learning and only made a 10 percentage point gain over their pre-test scores.

A third group was tested at 9 a.m. after having been trained at 9 p.m. After a night's sleep, those students improved their performance by 19 percentage points over their pre-test scores.

The students who were trained at 9 a.m. were tested again after a night's sleep, and their scores improved to the same level as the other students who had had a night's sleep.

"We were shocked by what we found," Nusbaum said. "We were particularly intrigued by the loss of learning the students experienced during the day and then recovered."

Researchers could not determine if the reduction in performance during the day was due to students forgetting what they'd learned, their listening to other speech or their thinking about unrelated issues during the day.

"If performance is reduced by interference, sleep might strengthen relevant associations and weaken irrelevant associations, improving access to relevant memories," the authors write. If information was forgotten, sleep might help people restore a memory.

Margoliash said, "Although these initial results cannot explain what is lost during the day, the question is very amenable to follow-up experiments."

Fenn added, "We are currently considering an FMRI study to investigate brain activity at the end of a day's learning compared with activity patterns after a night's sleep."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Chicago Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Chicago Medical Center. "Sleep Boosts Ability To Learn Language, University Of Chicago Researchers Find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031009065044.htm>.
University Of Chicago Medical Center. (2003, October 9). Sleep Boosts Ability To Learn Language, University Of Chicago Researchers Find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031009065044.htm
University Of Chicago Medical Center. "Sleep Boosts Ability To Learn Language, University Of Chicago Researchers Find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031009065044.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Texas Nurse Nina Pham Cured of Ebola

Texas Nurse Nina Pham Cured of Ebola

AFP (Oct. 25, 2014) — An American nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for a Liberian patient in Texas has been declared free of the virus and will leave the hospital. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toxin-Packed Stem Cells Used To Kill Cancer

Toxin-Packed Stem Cells Used To Kill Cancer

Newsy (Oct. 25, 2014) — A Harvard University Research Team created genetically engineered stem cells that are able to kill cancer cells, while leaving other cells unharmed. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins