Why Dreaming Makes You Smarter

New research from Harvard Medical School suggests that dreaming about a new piece of information helps you remember it. The findings could help improve memory and learning. Students, for instance, may be better off studying before bedtime or taking a post-study snooze.

Napping after learning something new could help you commit it to memory - as long as you dream, scientists say. Photo: PhotoCompetition

New research from Harvard Medical School suggests that dreaming about a new piece of information helps you remember it. The findings could help improve memory and learning. Students, for instance, may be better off studying before bedtime or taking a post-study snooze.

Volunteers were asked to learn the layout of a 3D computer maze so they could find their way within the virtual space several hours later. Those allowed to take a nap and who also remembered dreaming of the task, found their way to a landmark quicker.

The researchers think the dreams are a sign that unconscious parts of the brain are working hard to process information about the task. Dr Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School, one of the authors of the paper, said: “The dreams might reflect the brain’s attempt to find associations for the memories that could make them more useful in the future.”

Co-author Dr Erin Wamsley said the study suggests our non-conscious brain works on the things that it deems are most important. “Every day we are gathering and encountering tremendous amounts of information and new experiences,” she said. “It would seem that our dreams are asking the question, ‘How do I use this information to inform my life?”

The research, published in the academic journal Cell Biology, could have practical implications. The scientists say there may be ways to take advantage of this phenomenon for improving learning and memory. [via BBC; photo via PhotoCompetition]

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