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article imagePeople can categorize words while asleep

By Tim Sandle     Sep 20, 2014 in Science
Paris - According to a new study, the human brain can process information and even direct responses to cues while a person is sleeping.
To examine what is happening in the brain when a person is asleep, scientists based at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris first asked awake people to classify words such as “dog” and “stamp," as either animals or objects by pushing buttons with their left or right hands.
After this task became automatic, the same people were asked to repeat the test with a different list of words as they fell asleep.
While this was happening, electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings of brain activity on each side of their heads showed that sleeping participants still prepared to press the correct buttons, although they could not actually press them, and their response times were slower.
Interestingly, a separate experiment that asked participants to categorize real words and “pseudowords” while sleeping and awake had similar results.
The research finding implies that people can go all the way up to making decisions, to preparing actions, whilst asleep. The participants’ sleeping brains appeared to activate neural motor circuits involved in pressing a button.
The results have been published in the journal Current Biology. The research is titled "Inducing Task-Relevant Responses to Speech in the Sleeping Brain."
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