Sound Can Influence Consolidation of Memories

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December 14, 2009

New research conducted at Northwestern University has found that sounds heard during deep sleep can influence the consolidation of memories. According to a story in the university's news center, researchers presented 25 sounds — from a teakettle whistle to a cat's meow — to study participants as they slept and then conducted memory tests on the participants to see if they could match the sounds to a correct object. Participants were more accurate in identifying the 25 objects matched to sounds they heard while they slept than identifying another 25 unrelated matched objects. "The research strongly suggests that we don't shut down our minds during deep sleep," said John Rudoy, lead author of the study and a neuroscience Ph.D. student at Northwestern. "Rather this is an important time for consolidating memories." The study was published in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Science.