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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 19:28 GMT
Learning while you sleep
Newborn in cot (BBC)
Babies could be better at learning than adults
Babies can learn while they are fast asleep.

Scientists say sleeping newborns can be taught to distinguish between similar vowel sounds.

The researchers think sleep training soon after birth could help in education.


Sleep training soon after birth could find application in clinical or educational situations

Marie Cheour, University of Turku
It is not yet clear whether adults can do the same thing.

Marie Cheour, at the University of Turku, Finland, and colleagues recorded activity associated with the learning centres in the brain.

They measured the responses of a group of sleeping babies aged between one and seven days to spoken vowel sounds.

Power snooze

Patterns of brain activity associated with learned speech sounds lasted throughout the next day.

The researchers write in the journal Nature: "It is not yet clear whether humans are able to learn while they are sleeping.

"Here we show that full-term human newborns can be taught to discriminate between similar vowel sounds when they are fast asleep.

"It is possible that such sleep training soon after birth could find application in clinical or educational situations."

The fact that babies can process speech sounds while they are sleeping suggests that newborns may be better at this kind of learning than adults.

See also:

29 Sep 00 | Health
Babies 'can learn' in the womb
15 Feb 98 | Sci/Tech
Babies baffled by blah blah babble
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