Contrary to popular belief, our brain does not rest while we sleep. Rather, quite the contrary - in certain phases, brain activity can be significantly higher than during wakefulness. In addition, in a dream there is a process of consolidation and reconsolidation of memory - information is transferred from temporary memory to permanent and vice versa.
In a new study, scientists from Berne tried to track another process that occurs in a dream. Namely: they decided to find out whether it is possible to form new semantic links between foreign words and their translation.
To do this, they conducted an experiment in which 41 volunteers took part. During a slow sleep, scientists included audio recordings with fictitious words and their translation into German for the participants of the experiment. (A fictional language was necessary to eliminate the element of chance.)
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After completing the experiment, scientists found: semantic associations between the words of the invented language and their German translation were really formed (provided that a couple of words were reproduced from two to four times during sleep).
The next morning, when the participants were asked what a particular word means, they could not name the exact translation, but they always correctly described some characteristic features of the object that was indicated by that word. For example, they could describe its shape and size.
So far, researchers cannot say for sure whether such a method contributes to faster, conscious storage of information. However, they hope that in the future this discovery will help people with various cognitive impairments.