Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: April 23, 2010 Archive

Learned Dreams

Posted at 6:00 AM on April 23, 2010 by Dale Connelly (48 Comments)
Filed under: Science

Radio Heartland has tickets to give away to a concert by Over the Rhine at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at 7pm next Tuesday, April 27th. We'll close off entries at 1pm today and notify winners by e-mail later this afternoon.

Enter the drawing.
Obey the rules.
Good luck!

Trial Balloon today is brought to you by Physicians for Bedrest, promoting completion of the first job you ever had (and the job that still may mean the most for your overall well-being) - the job of sleep!

The evidence in favor of the benefits of sleep continues to mount, and now there are indications that dreaming can be quite beneficial. A study published just yesterday in the journal Current Biology tells of subjects trying to decipher a computer generated three-dimensional maze. The task was to study the maze and to learn how to get to a landmark (a tree) in the center. Hours later, the same subjects were re-tested on the maze to see how their performance had changed over time.

Those who did not sleep between the first and second sessions did no better, and some did worse.
Those who slept did marginally better.
But those who slept AND reported dreaming about the maze showed vast improvement over their earlier performance.

The conclusion? That's anybody's guess, because it involves synthesizing a lot of complicated information. I had to read a whole article about the study and some smarter student's blog and then take a nap before I could even begin to understand it, but this is what I get:

Going to sleep as soon as possible after a difficult bit of learning is the best way to make educational progress.

So those stuck up students who took detailed notes in Mr. Pike's biology class and then made a big show out of re-writing those notes very neatly during the after-lunch study hall should have been more accepting of certain other students who spent that incredibly boring period with their heads down on their desks in daily drool soaked, snore-punctuated, air-gasping naps.

And instead of calling an unconscious fellow learner a "gross, inconsiderate slob" and trying to get him in trouble, it would have been wiser to appreciate how efficiently that learner was consolidating and internalizing the recently acquired information, allowing it to imprint itself on his neural pathways.

And rather than making fun of that learner for his incoherent sleep-state mumblings about Mr. Pike, mashed potatoes and fire juggling walruses, it would have been much more considerate to acknowledge that dreaming is a useful tool that does something mysterious and important that we obviously don't understand and it is in no way an indication that the dreamer is weird, uncool, or may be living a twisted and perverse fantasy life.

So there, Mary Ellen Fitzpatrick!

Do you feel more capable or smarter about something after you've had a chance to sleep on it?

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