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OCR for page 1
About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please INTRODUCTION 1 INTRODUCTION Is it possible for people to register and retain what is said in their presence while they sleep? If it is possible, is the learning that takes place during sleep efficient enough to be of practical as well as theoretical significance? These are the questions of chief concern in this paper. To address these issues, research dealing with a number of variables that may have an important influence on sleep learning is summarized in the second section of the paper, while in the third section, some tentative conclusions concerning the possibility and practicality of learning during sleep are offered, and prospects for future research are outlined. Much of the material covered in both of these sections has been culled from a remarkably thorough and trenchant review of the sleep learning literature by Aarons (1976), which I recommend to interested readers in the strongest possible terms. As will become apparent in the course of subsequent discussion, solid facts about sleep learning are scarce, and only one of the variables to be considered--the level of electroencephalographic (EEG) activation that accompanies or follows the presentation of a to-be-learned or target item--has to date been examined in an empirically exacting manner. Although the present dearth of reliable data is unfortunate, it is also understandable. For many years following publication of the carefully controlled EEG experiments by Emmons and Simon (1956; Simon & Emmons 1956), sleep learning was a dead issue. They use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution.

OCR for page 1
About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please INTRODUCTION 2 demonstrated that verbal information presented during sleep was irretrievable upon awakening unless presentation coincided with alpha activity, an EEG indicator of arousal or wakefulness. Their negative results, in combination with a highly critical commentary (Simon & Emmons 1955) on the positive results that had been obtained by others (e.g., Fox & Robbins 1952; Leuba & Bateman 1952), caused most researchers in the United States and other Western nations to abandon the idea that people may be able to learn while they sleep. In more recent times, however, there has been a modest revival of interest in the possibility of sleep learning, owing to three important developments. First, a number of studies have shown that during slow wave (alpha free) sleep, subjects are able to make complex discriminations between repetitive auditory signals (e.g., Oswald et al. 1960), and to perform, when cued with appropriate sensory stimuli, motor responses which they had learned while awake (e.g., Okuma et al. 1966). One implication of these and related results (see Koulack & Goodenough 1976; Lehmann & Koukkou 1974) is that even during deep sleep, short-term storage of new information is possible, as is access to old information in long-term memory. Second, evidence from several sources (see Firth 1973; Goodenough 1978) suggests that habituation or conditioning of various physiological responses, such as heart rate and GSR, can occur during sleep, albeit at a slower rate than occurs during wakefulness. Since both habituation and conditioning represent forms of learning, this evidence implies that the inability to remember information presented during sleep may be attributable not to difficulties in storing the information, but rather, to a failure to retrieve the information on waking (Koukkou & Lehmann 1983; Koulack & Goodenough 1976). Third, there have been numerous reports out of use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution.

OCR for page 1
About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. INTRODUCTION learning may occur. It is to these conditions that I now turn. Goodenough 1978; Oltman et al. 1977), these reports recommend a reappraisal of the conslusion that sleep learning is impossible, and raise a number of interesting questions concerning the conditions under which 3 the Soviet Union and other Eastern countries of success in demonstrating sleep learning (see Hoskovec 1966; Rubin 1968, 1971). Though there can be no doubt that learning is dramatically impaired during sleep (see