Learning during sleep enhances wake-learning
Recent evidence suggests that learning of new acoustically presented information is possible during deep sleep, a finding that runs counter to the long-held belief that the sleeping brain is incapable of learning new information. We will examine the learning of new vocabulary during deep sleep in healthy participants and brain damaged patients. We are using EEG and fMRI to explore whether humans can learn new vocabulary (i.e., associations between foreign words and German translation words) during SWS by way of the hippocampal formation and language areas of the brain. We are now testing whether the enhancement of the slow oscillatory up-states using rhythmic auditory stimulation would improve vocabulary acquisition during sleep. Next, recordings from intrahippocampal electrodes will allow to determine whether hippocampal sharp-wave ripples and cortical up-states of slow oscillations would contribute to vocabulary acquisition during SWS. Finally, we will examine whether an initial bout of sleep-learning would boost subsequent wake-learning of the same vocabulary in neurological patients with memory deficits due to medial temporal and/or thalamic damage.