A team of Swiss scientists has achieved the formation of semantic associations between words in sleeping subjects. This opens the way to the creation of new methods of learning foreign languages.
The idea of learning in a dream is considered one of the most controversial in the science of the human brain. Some studies demonstrate that it is impossible. Meanwhile, enthusiastic scientists continue to look for evidence that the brain is capable of learning from sleep. On one of these works, carried out by Swiss researchers, says Eurek Alert.
Scientists decided to check whether a sleeping person can form new semantic associations between foreign words and their translations into their native language in the phase of deep sleep. Participants of the experience were voiced with words in their native German language and their “translations” into a fictional foreign language.
After awakening, the volunteers were able to partially restore the semantic associations between words. For example, if a person heard a pair of “tofer = key” and “guga = elephant” in a dream, then he would more accurately classify fictional words by the size of the objects they represent.
The formation of the skill involved the areas of the brain associated with speech, as well as the hippocampus, which is considered the center of processing memories.
The authors of the work believe that if the sleeping brain is able to process the information received during the day, then the effect on it during sleep also leaves a trace in the memory.
The idea of using “useless” sleep time for training is very tempting, but unhealthy sleep can lead to undesirable consequences. For example, strengthen the perception of pain, including chronic.
Sleep disturbances quickly increase pain perception
Chronic pain can cause sleep disorders, which, in turn, increase the sensation of pain. Scientists from the University of California at Berkeley for the first time explained how this vicious circle is arranged.
The researchers conducted a series of experiments in which hot objects of different temperatures were applied to the legs of 25 subjects and asked to estimate the level of pain on a 10-point scale. The reaction of the brain is recorded. It turned out that insomnia increases the feeling of pain. According to scientists, this is due to violations of the natural mechanisms of perception and pain relief.
On the records of the brain, it looks like an increase in the activity of the somatosensory cortex. At the same time, in the adjacent nucleus, which is responsible for the reward system, activity decreases. Among other functions, this area highlights dopamine, which drowns out the pain. Insularity also affects the islet lobe, a region of the brain that assesses pain signals.
In order to further confirm the link between sleep and pain, researchers conducted a survey of 230 adults of different ages through the Amazon Mechanical Turk online system. Respondents were asked to talk about the quantity and quality of sleep and how their perceptions of pain change from day to day.
The survey showed that even minor sleep disorders affect pain sensitivity the next day.
According to the authors of the work, sleep can be considered a natural anesthetic. Ironically, worst of all, people sleep in hospital wards – where they face the most severe pain. Researchers recommend that doctors and hospital staff pay more attention to the quality of patient sleep.
A study of doctors working on the night shift confirmed that disruption of sleep patterns adversely affects health at the most fundamental level. Just one sleepless night can damage DNA.