For years, we’ve been led to believe our brains power down and switch off while asleep. However, recent research published in Current Biology now suggests that our brains are quite capable of decision making while asleep. In fact, there’s new evidence to suggest that there’s much more going on in our heads while we sleep than originally thought.
According to the new research, complex stimuli can not only be processed during sleep, but can make decisions similar to while awake; although, the brain is not capable of complex motor sequences while sleeping, such as driving a car. However, the brain remains capable of processing certain information and responding to the information while asleep.
During the research project, participants listened to a series of words while awake and were asked to push a button on either their right side or left based on the category the word was placed into. Next, once asleep, EEG electrodes were placed on the participants’ heads, at which point they listened to new words and were give new categories. The participants were unable to push the buttons, but their brains still responded to the words and processed the information just as they did while they were awake. Although the button was not pushed, the areas of the brain responsible for pushing the button on either the right or left side reacted and remained active to produce the correct signals based on the words that were heard.
Upon awake, participates didn’t remember any of the words they heard while asleep, but recalled all of the words they heard prior to sleep. As a result of the research, participates were capable of processing complex information while asleep. The results leave researchers wondering if new learning methods to retain information can be used while we sleep? However, more research needs to be conducted to evaluate how beneficial it would be and if sleep deprivation might be a concern.
This study sheds new light on how our brains function while asleep. It proves that our brains don’t fully power down like originally thought while asleep, which opens the door to new possibilities.