Sleeping and Sensing (04-12-19)

A research team lead by Legendre found that we process significant amounts of sensory information while asleep, which has implications for the design of a range of spaces, from homes to healthcare facilities.  The investigators report that “the sleeping brain continues generating neural responses to external events, revealing the preservation of cognitive processes ranging from the recognition of familiar stimuli to the formation of new memory representations.Why would sleepers continue processing external events and yet remain unresponsive? Here we hypothesized that sleepers enter a ‘standby mode’ in which they continue tracking relevant signals, finely balancing the need to stay inward for memory consolidation with the ability to rapidly awake when necessary. . . . we demonstrate that the sleeping brain amplifies meaningful speech compared to irrelevant signals. However, the amplification of relevant stimuli was transient and vanished during deep sleep. . . . the selection of relevant stimuli continues to operate during sleep but is strongly modulated by specific brain rhythms.”

Guillaume Legendre, Thomas Andrillon, Matthieu Koroma, and Sid Kouider. 2019.  “Sleepers Track Informative Speech In a Multitalker Environment.”  Nature Human Behavior, vol. 3, pp. 274-283, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0502-5