The wonders of what the body is up to as we sleep just keeps becoming even more impressive. One study is suggesting that our brains are hard at work even when we are asleep, identifying and categorizing words without our knowledge.
Published online in the journal Current Biology, the study involved 18 volunteers who had their brain activity monitored using an electroencephalogram (EEG) while they listened to words, and classified them as objects or animals by pressing a button using their left or right hand.
Next, each volunteer was placed inside of a dark room and allowed to drift off to sleep as they completed their word classification tasks. The researchers continued to record their brain activity after they had fallen asleep, switching to a completely new set of words.
A somewhat freaky discovery was made. The volunteers could still accurately classify words as they slept, even though it took them a longer amount of time to decide what category a word belonged to. The same brain activity that occurred when a volunteer was going to press a button with their right or left hand to signal an answer still appeared on the EEG when the volunteers were sleeping.
Lead study author and cognitive neuroscientist at École Normale Supérieure in France Sid Kouider shared more information with The Christian Science Monitor this week.
“What we’ve been able to show here is that you can go all the way up to making decisions, to preparing actions,” Kouider shared. “We’re testing whether you can have people falling asleep while they’re learning something and if they can continue to learn when they’re asleep.”
In the future, researchers may be able to find a way for us to fully take advantage of our brain power as we sleep. What do you think of this very cool yet, eerie study?