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Sleep helps people learn complicated tasks
Date:11/17/2008

Sleep helps the mind learn complicated tasks and helps people recover learning they otherwise thought they had forgotten over the course of a day, research at the University of Chicago shows.

Using a test that involved learning to play video games, researchers showed for the first time that people who had "forgotten" how to perform a complex task 12 hours after training found that those abilities were restored after a night's sleep.

"Sleep consolidated learning by restoring what was lost over the course of a day following training and by protecting what was learned against subsequent loss," said Howard Nusbaum, Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, and a researcher in the study. "These findings suggest that sleep has an important role in learning generalized skills in stabilizing and protecting memory."

The results demonstrate that this consolidation may help in learning language processes such as reading and writing as well as eye-hand skills such as tennis, he said.

For the study, researchers tested about 200 college students, most of whom were women, who had little previous experience playing video games. The team reported the findings in the paper, "Consolidation of Sensorimotor Learning During Sleep," in the current issue of Learning and Memory. Joining Nusbaum in the research were lead author Timothy Brawn, a graduate student in Psychology at the University; Kimberly Fenn, now an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University; and Daniel Margoliash, Professor in the Departments of Organismal Biology & Anatomy and Psychology at the University.

The team had students learn video games containing a rich, multisensory virtual environment in which players must use both hands to deal with continually changing visual and auditory signals. The first-person navigation games require learning maps of different environments.

For the study, researchers used first-person s
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Contact: William Harms
w-harms@uchicago.edu
773-702-8356
University of Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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