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TOEFL Tip #192: Sleep Learning Has Limited Applications …. For Now

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on February 22, 2013

In last week’s post, we discussed how sleep plays an important role in memory. When you are asleep, your brain consolidates everything you learned during the day and prepares your memory for the next day’s information. Rather than avoiding sleep and trying to cram overnight before taking the TOEFL, you should plan your schedule to get a full night’s sleep.

If your brain strengthens memories while you sleep, can you learn while you are asleep, too?

According to a 2012 article in Nature Neuroscience, yes, you can.

To test whether people can learn something entirely new while asleep, researchers first exposed sleeping test subjects to pleasant or unpleasant odors, and recorded how deeply they inhaled (deeply for pleasant odors, shallowly for unpleasant ones). Then, they paired the odors with sounds. Again, the test subjects inhaled deeply when exposed to the pleasant odor, and shallowly for the unpleasant smells. After waking up, the test subjects inhaled in the same way when they heard the sounds, even though the corresponding odor was not present. This demonstrates that the test subjects learned the connection between the pleasant/unpleasant odors and the sounds while asleep, and that the brain retained the information.

But don’t rush to replace typical studying methods with playing recordings while you sleep! As this article from National Public Radio points out, there is still a long way to go before scientists fully understand how the brain acquires information while asleep. The brain can be conditioned to associate smells and sounds, but whether it can learn language-based concepts is unproven right now.

Learning while asleep might be an option for future students, but for now, it’s just a dream.


Categories: TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University,TOEFL Preparation

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