Stimulating the sleeping brain: Current approaches to modulating memory-related sleep physiology.
BACKGROUND: One of the most audacious proposals throughout the history of psychology was the potential ability to learn while we sleep. The idea penetrated culture via sci-fi movies and inspired the invention of devices that claimed to teach foreign languages, facts, and even quit smoking by simply listening to audiocassettes or other devices during sleep. However, the promises from this endeavor didn’t stand up to experimental scrutiny, and the dream was shunned from the scientific community. Despite the historic evidence that the sleeping brain cannot learn new complex information (i.e., words, images, facts), a new wave of current interventions are demonstrating that sleep can be manipulated to strengthen recent memories.
NEW METHOD: Several recent approaches have been developed that play with the sleeping brain in order to modify ongoing memory processing. Here, we provide an overview of the available techniques to non-invasively modulate memory-related sleep physiology, including sensory, vestibular and electrical stimulation, as well as pharmacological approaches.
COMPARISON WITH EXISTING METHODS: N/A.
CONCLUSIONS: Although the results are encouraging, suggesting that in general the sleeping brain may be optimized for better memory performance, the road to bring these techniques in free-living conditions is paved with unanswered questions and technical challenges that need to be carefully addressed.
PMID: 30452977 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
J Neurosci Methods. 2019 03 15;316:125-136
Authors: Cellini N, Mednick SC