Our ability to learn suffers greatly from even minor disturbances of sleep, caused by a noisy environment for example. This was discovered by the researchers at the VUmc and the Dutch Institute for Neurosciences (NIN-KNAW).
The researchers researched the processes in the brain that play a role in sleeping. They played sounds during the deep sleep of the test subjects. Then their brain activity was measured.
MRI scans showed that the hippocampus part of the brain was more active in the people whose sleep was not disturbed by noise than of those who heard beeps during their sleep. Also a hundred images were shown to the test subjects of which that had seen 50 the day before.
They were asked if they recognized the images they had already seen. The undisturbed sleepers did significantly better than those who had heard beeps during their sleep.
During our sleep our brains orders information and makes room for new input. When the slow brainwaves that occur during sleep are disturbed by external disturbances like noise and light, then the hippocampus is less active during the following day. The hippocampus plays a crucial role in the storing of memories.
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