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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New research suggests sleep doesn’t just help learning, it helps “relearning” as well

Sleep appears to be important for long-term potentiation, a strengthening of signals between neurons that is widely regarded as a mechanism of learning and memory. Certain memories acquired during the day appear to be reactivated and “replayed” in the brain during sleep, which may help make them longer lasting. In some instances the amount of improvement that occurs on memory tasks positively correlates with the length of time spent in certain stages of sleep.
To date, most sleep and learning research has focused on recall, which is the capacity to remember information. However, new research by Stéphanie Mazza and colleagues at the University of Lyon, recently published in the journal Psychological Science,suggests another potential benefit of sleep: improved relearning. Relearning refers to the process of re-acquiring forgotten information. Because we cannot possibly remember all of the information that we encounter, it is often necessary to go back and learn that information again. That’s when relearning occurs—such as when preparing for an exam, taking a refresher course, or simply revisiting a topic after an extended period of time. According to this new research, sleep supercharges relearning: it can enable us to relearn twice as quickly and up to three times more effectively.

Cecile G. Tamura
We’ve all stayed up the night before an exam to do some late-night cramming, but we might have been going about it the wrong way. It turns out that only about 20% of the potential brain function is on the go between 10pm and midnight, explaining why it’s so hard to stay on track. However a 2010 study found that a quick nap can work wonders on our brain’s ability. The study, done by Harvard University, showed that students that slept and dreamt for 90 minutes before being given a puzzle scored much higher than their peers. Scientists believe that dreaming has a positive effect on memory recall and concentration, giving you a great reason to hit the sack early tonight.

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