Poster B94, Sunday, March 26, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Vocabulary acquisition during sleep
Marc Züst1, Simon Ruch1, Roland Wiest2, Katharina Henke1; 1University of Bern, Switzerland, 2University Hospital of Bern, Switzerland
Recent evidence suggests verbal comprehension and simple nonverbal associative learning is possible during sleep. We investigated whether these findings can be combined to enable verbal associative learning, i.e. vocabulary acquisition, during sleep. We aurally presented novel vocabulary in the form of German-foreign word pairs during deep, slow-wave sleep and tested for sleep-learning after waking in an implicit test for semantic associations. Performance indicated that participants had established semantic word-word associations during slow-wave sleep even though they had no conscious awareness of sleep-learning. Electrophysiology indicated that sleep-learning can only occur if vocabulary is presented in-sync with slow wave peaks, which mark windows of opportunity for sleep-learning when neurons are excitable. Neuroimaging showed vocabulary retrieval was mediated by hippocampus and neocortical semantic storage sites in the temporal pole, as well as parietal- and frontal brain regions associated with vocabulary learning. These findings suggest that humans can encode new hippocampus-dependent semantic associations and commit them to long-term memory during a state of unconsciousness, like deep sleep.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic