Instead of a study hour or other skills improvement class, perhaps schools should start facilitating naptime every day at every grade level. There’s new research to back up the benefits of napping after learning. A new study from the University of Geneva, which will be published in the journal eLife, declares that though receiving rewards as you learn actually does cement the new information into memory, this strategy works even better when topped with a daytime nap.
— Neuroscience News (@NeuroscienceNew) October 16, 2015
Lead researcher Dr. Kinga Igloi, from the University of Geneva, says that rewards probably act as a kind of tag that roots information into the brain during learning, and that during naps, the learned information that has been implanted into the brain is favorably consolidated and transferred into areas of the brain that are associated with long-term memory. Learning, rewarding, and napping seems to be the 1-2-3 punch to genuine study achievement, the research indicates. Dr. Igloi stressed that the findings are also proof-positive that a lack of sleep has devastating effects on learning achievement.
— NOVA Education (@NOVAeducation) October 17, 2015
In order to make these conclusions, 31 study participants were assigned to one of two groups: A napping group or a group that didn’t get to enjoy a nap. The rewards given to both groups were considered equal in value. Their brains were scanned while they were taught to remember a pair of pictures. Eight series of pictures were shown. The volunteers were told that remembering four particular pairs would result in getting a better reward.
After being shown the pairs of pictures, the participants were either allowed to merely relax or to nap for an hour and a half depending on which group they were in. After that, they were tested on their memory of the pairs and asked them to rate their confidence level of their answers. Three months later, the participants were all asked to come back for a surprise test of the same nature, Medical News Today reported.
The people who slept had a better memory of the pairs even after three months, and the pairs of photos associated with the higher rewards were selectively better. MRI scans showed that the group that napped after memorizing the photos experienced greater activity in the hippocampus, which is a small area of the brain needed for forming memories. The participants who were allowed to nap also had a higher number of bursts of brain activity called “slow spindles.” Three months after the initial testing, the group that napped also showed increased connectivity between the hippocampus, the medial prefrontal cortex, and the striatum. These areas of the brain are associated with memory consolidation and reward processing.
“We further show that sleep spindles strengthen memory representations based on reward values, suggesting a privileged replay of information yielding positive outcomes. These findings demonstrate that post-learning sleep determines the neural fate of motivationally-relevant memories and promotes a value-based stratification of long-term memory stores.”
— Soft Star Shoes (@softstarshoes) October 10, 2015
“We already knew that sleep helps strengthens memories, but we now also know that it helps us select and retain those that have a rewarding value,” Igloi stated, according to a press release. “It makes adaptive sense that the consolidation of memory should work to prioritize information that is critical to our success and survival.”
Have you noticed that you learn better if you take a nap right after studying?
[Photo via Pixabay]