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The brain can learn new things while asleep

Scientifilms

A new study found the human brain can recognize sound patterns heard while sleeping, adding evidence to the debate over whether it is possible to learn while we are asleep, the Washington Post reports.

The study: Neuroscientists played white noise with an occasional sound pattern to 20 sleeping subjects. When the sleepers woke up, the scientists played back the recordings and the subjects were asked to identify the patterns. They found people could remember recordings played during the REM and light stages of sleep but if it was played during deeper stages, people's ability to recall them was impaired. It's the first study to show differences in learning across sleep stages.

Yes, but... pattern memorization like that in the study happens automatically and doesn't require the engagement that, say, learning a language does.