Learning while sleeping, learning limited during slow wave sleep

on 08 August 2018
redrawing the way the brain works

I'm a little confused by this research, if only because I thought it was common knowledge that much of the memory consolidation that occurs during sleep, occurs during REM and NonREM phase 2, which occur in cycles and so, are more possibly linked to certain levels of learning . . . . . . . . . . 

This is exactly the reason why I provide some of my clients with a recording (MP3), to allow it to consolidate specific learning and compliment our hypnosis sessions. Slow wave-sleep (aka NonREM phase 3 or Delta wave sleep) is that very deep sleep state (almost akin to a comatose state) and perhaps one of the major benefits we get from it is in the down state, where there is very little neuronal activity. That's how the brain gets its rest and repair/restoration can occur. Dreaming, and the other levels of awareness we can have occurs during REM sleep. It is also the phase where PGO (Ponto geniculo occipital) waves occur and my theory, of the scientific aspect, that explains how hypnosis works come from this.

That hypnosis works is well documented but it's a little too random for the scientific community to adopt. And to be fair to them, it does work better for some, than for others. My theory, however, is, that if a client comes into therapy with a problem and a few sessions later, they no longer have that problem, then hypnosis-therapy is most likely deserving recognition for that transition (not discounting the client for a moment). Because of the frequency of this transition, my belief was that there has to be an explanation as to why and how this (hypno-therapeutic transition) happens and when I discovered that PGO waves respond to auditory stimulation, I thought; that's it! The auditory stimulation that the PGO waves respond to, is the hypnotist's voice (ME)!

So, during the conscious part of the session, we are testing theories, challenging assumptions, thoughts, beliefs etc. and therapeutic interventions (psychotherapy) are posited for consideration. Also, some questions are posed which, most likely, the client would not know the answer to because the drivers of the thought, feeling or behaviour are subconscious in nature. Of course, they often give an answer but very often the conscious answers we give to something (relative to the reasons for therapy) are merely the thing that makes the most sense. And that is often all we need because we have to make sense of everything. By the nature of the way the brain and mind work, we are only ever aware of the result of our neural processes, not the processing itself. So, these questions, theories and assumptions, relative to the solution we seek, are then fed back into the brain, be it directly or through metaphor, through the process of trance induction and deepening. It is this intricate process of trance induction, deepening that elicits the cycle of REM sleep (theta brain waves) and PGO waves thus creating a cycle of suggestion, learning and consolidation (maybe some reconsolidation too). This is akin to rewiring/rewriting the code of the neural networks that ultimately allows the neurons, networks and memories to express themselves in the new, wanted, way!

My objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into emotional experiences that may actually be happening but for reasons different to which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

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The Research: 


Led by Philippe Peigneux, ULB Neuroscience Institute, a group of researchers found that our learning capabilities are limited during slow wave sleep. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), they showed that while our brain is still able to perceive sounds during sleep, it is unable to group these sounds according to their organisation in a sequence.

Hypnopedia, or the ability to learn during sleep, was popularized in the '60s, with for example the dystopia Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, in which individuals are conditioned to their future tasks during sleep. This concept has been progressively abandoned due to a lack of reliable scientific evidence supporting in-sleep learning abilities.

Recently, however, few studies showed that the acquisition of elementary associations such as stimulus-reflex response is possible during sleep, both in humans and in animals. Nevertheless, it is not clear if sleep allows for more sophisticated forms of learning.

A study published this August 6 in the journal Scientific Reports by researchers from the ULB Neuroscience Institute (UNI) shows that while our brain is able to continue perceiving sounds during sleep like when awake, the ability to group these sounds according to their organization in a sequence is only present at wakefulness, and completely disappears during sleep.

Juliane Farthouat, while a Research Fellow of the FNRS under the direction of Philippe Peigneux, professor at the Faculty of Psychological Science and Education at Université Libre de Bruxelles, ULB, used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to record the cerebral activity mirroring the statistical learning of series of sounds, both during slow-wave sleep (a part of sleep during which brain activity is highly synchronized) and during wakefulness.

During sleep, participants were exposed to fast flows of pure sounds, either randomly organized or structured in such a way that the auditory stream could be statistically grouped into sets of 3 elements.

During sleep, brain MEG responses demonstrated preserved detection of isolated sounds, but no response reflecting statistical clustering.

During wakefulness, however, all participants presented brain MEG responses reflecting the grouping of sounds into sets of 3 elements.

The results of this study suggest intrinsic limitations in de novo learning during slow wave sleep, that might confine the sleeping brain's learning capabilities to simple, elementary associations.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Université Libre de BruxellesNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Juliane Farthouat, Anne Atas, Vincent Wens, Xavier De Tiege, Philippe Peigneux. Lack of frequency-tagged magnetic responses suggests statistical regularities remain undetected during NREM sleepScientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-30105-5