Learn in your sleep. With your nose….
Nature sniffs out a technique for using smells to pick up new information – and new emotional responses – in your sleep:
Anat Arzi of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and her colleagues used a simple form of learning called classical conditioning to teach 55 healthy participants to associate odours with sounds as they slept.
They repeatedly exposed the sleeping participants to pleasant odours, such as deodorant and shampoo, and unpleasant odours such as rotting fish and meat, and played a specific sound to accompany each scent.
But the latest research shows that the sleep conditioning persists even after they wake up, causing them to sniff strongly or weakly on hearing the relevant tone — even if there was no odour. The participants were completely unaware that they had learned the relationship between smells and sounds. The effect was seen regardless of when the conditioning was done during the sleep cycle. However, the sniffing responses were slightly more pronounced in those participants who learned the association during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, which typically occurs during the second half of a night’s sleep.
“We are now trying to implement helpful behavioural modification through sleep-learning,” says Arzi.
Of course, the first thing I think of is how this could be used on, say, prisoners or political rivals.