What is the real role of sleep in learning and enhancing memory? It has long since been said that sleep helps one assimilate new knowledge, enabling one to recall it better. A new study has provided new insight in this topic: what actually happens in the brain during sleep that aids the learning process.
Sleep-lovers will be ecstatic to hear that sleep helps in the process of learning. Scientists from the NYU Langone Medical Center have shown that deep sleep enhances brain activity that boosts the assimilation of newly-acquired knowledge. Deep sleep is, in fact, conducive to the production of links in between brain cells which aids one in retaining to mind memories one has had during the day. Therefore, sleep is considered to be the solution for one to glue memories to one’s mind.
The study focused on bringing tangible evidence to support the hypothesis put forward by the researchers. They showed how sleep affects the state of the region of the brain which is involved in voluntary movements, the motor cortex.
The led author, Wen-Biao Gan, said: “We’ve known for a long time that sleep plays an important role in learning and memory. If you don’t sleep well you won’t learn well.” In order to understand the why and the how behind this generally-accepted concept, he set out to investigate the physical mechanisms occurring in the brain.
Their observations led them to deduce that sleep helps the formation of connections on dendritic branches which fuels the assimilation of memories. Sleep has a considerable effect on the entension of nerves which is needed for the strengthening of memory.
The study went further, digging deeper into the happenings inside the brain to decipher the intricacies that sleep triggers. They found that different kinds of learning build synapses on different branches of the same nerve cells: the processes are not random, but, in fact, specific modifications occur in the cells making up the brain.
While sleep provides us with rest, the brain buzzes in activity, constantly building new bridges in between different cells. Whatever is it that we have assimilated during the eaking hours are replayed during deep sleep: the moment when brain waves decelerate and dreaming is put to a halt. That is the time when the information having been newly input to the brain gets processed so as to allow us to recall them better. The study has, for the first time ever, yielded results that might explain the processes underlying these happenings: how does the information gets replayed so that we are able to retain them in mind better.
Now, it has been established that the learning of new information causes a neurone to grow new links in a very organised manner: the connections made are very specific as to which branch is being subject to the linkages being made.
Maybe the school authorities should consider assigning some class periods to some intense deep sleep sessions, right?