The BBC website reports on a study at Northwestern University, Chicago, in which a group of 40 people were assessed for their levels of sexual and racial bias, and then given "counter-bias training" accompanied by a series of distinctive sounds that were played again at low volume while they enjoyed an afternoon nap. The result was a reduction in their bias scores. Doubtless this experiment has important things to tell us about sleep, learning and cognition; but no less intriguing are the ethical questions it raises about power, manipulation and suggestibility. As one commentator notes, the experiment is uncomfortably reminiscent of the systematic brainwashing of sleeping children in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
"The upshot is that, for any young student who wants to do better — in school, in sports, in music or even in the social whirl (yes, that’s learning too) — knowing the science of sleep will help them respect slumber for what it is: learning consolidation. "
The BBC website reports on remarkable new research on the processing powers of the sleeping brain. A team led by the neuroscientist Sid Kouider of the Ecole Normal Superieure found that the sleeping brain can accurately assign words into simple categories (eg 'animal' or 'object'). Koudier also suggests that we can perform calculations while we fall asleep, and "continue to identify those calculations as right or wrong during a snooze."