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It has been believed for some that sleep played a key role in organizing and consolidating experiences into memories but the results of a recent study indicates that sleep serves to strengthen and even revive faded memories.
The study was carried out by a research team at the University of Chicago and reported in the recent issue of the journal Nature. Professor Dan Margoliash and his team of Kimberly Fenn and Howard Nusbaum trained students to recognize garbled words spoken by a voice synthesizer. There was a 20 percent improvement in the ability to recognize the words after the training but when the same students were tested later in the day their performance fell by 50 percent.
They were tested again the next day after a nights sleep and their performance went back up. Professor Margoliash summed up the results of the study thusly: “I think what is happening during sleep is that you are recreating the experience and by doing that you somehow fix the memory.”
Dr. Margoliash concluded by saying, “It is absolutely the case that if you want to learn something and remember it for a long time, then an integral part of your strategy has to be to get a good night’s sleep.”
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