Learning Is Consolidated during Sleep Due to the Actual Learning Process, Not Brain Activity

The importance of sleep to the body cannot be emphasized enough! The health benefits of this activity range from cell repair, energy restoration, and toxic waste elimination, to improved functioning of the brain. No wonder it is highly recommended for people indulged in a learning activity, particularly students, to get enough sleep, especially at night. Students are advised to sleep properly, and at the right times, because it is known that the activities of the brain during sleep help to better retain information taken in during the day while learning.

Man Sleeping

Man Sleeping

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However, it has been contemplated if the ability to retain information is a product of the brain’s activity during sleep or the actual learning process. This has been clarified by the collaboration between Yuka Sasaki of Brown University and Masako Tamaki of RIKEN Center who went into research to discover the actual activities of the brain, and the process of information retention by students.

Knowledge retention: brain activity or learning process?

They carried out the research with the help of volunteers including young people. They divided the volunteers into two groups and tested them with a two-session visual exercise. In the first group, they ran two similar sessions, while in the other, they ran two very different sessions – the second contradicting the knowledge gained from the first session. At the end of the sessions, they found that the first group did better at their training, while the second did not.

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Afterward, both groups were asked to sleep to allow for a better rating of how well they retained the knowledge from the training when they woke. When they tested the individuals in both groups, they found that individuals of the first improved much better as they were able to recall more information than individuals of the second. They concluded this was so because of the variation in the learning process used in both groups, even though both groups had equal time duration for the sessions.

In addition, to support their conclusion about the connection between better knowledge retention during sleep and the learning process, they employed the use of the “brain-signal monitoring device” while the volunteers were asleep and this revealed that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep – which are the two major activities associated with the sleeping process and necessary for knowledge retention to occur – were involved when both groups were asleep.

Clinical significance

The findings from this study will help teachers see the need to put effort into the teaching and learning processes since it has shown that the process plays a major role in knowledge retention by students.

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This study shows that the learning process majorly influences information retention by humans, as opposed to the brain’s activity during sleep.


Sleep-Dependent Facilitation of Visual Perceptual Learning Is Consistent with a Learning-Dependent Model


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