The journal Sleep reported in their October 1, 2008 issue a study showing that improved sleep quality can accelerate learning and memorizing through a process that reshapes your brain activity.

According to the study, participants were able to “shape their brain activity” by the direct manipulation of certain EEG (electroencephalographic) activities. Researchers were able to support their theory that an increase in relaxation, and decrease in muscle tension, leads to less movement during sleep that enhances the body’s ability to accelerate learning and increase memory.

The 27 participants in the study were able to fall asleep faster and increase memory performance after just two weeks of instrumental sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) amplitude by instrumental SMR conditioning (ISC). The EEG changes were able to transition into sleep and improve memory retrieval after learning.

“The aim of the study was to improve sleep quality and memory performance by ‘rewarding’ the existence of certain activities of the brain,” said the study’s workgroup leader, Dr. Manuel Schabus, researcher for the division of physiological psychology at the University of Salzburg in Austria.

Instrumental conditioning of different EEG parameters has successfully been used as a therapeutic tool to treat different kinds of disorders, including epilepsy and attention–deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Previous studies have found ISC to be effective in treating a form of insomnia associated with worrying – psychophysiological insomnia.

Healthy subjects were randomly assigned to participate in either an ISC group or a randomized frequency group to examine the effects of ISC on sleep and declarative memory performance. Subjects visited the laboratory on 13 occasions, 10 of which they were connected to a feedback system that allowed researchers and participants to keep track of their current brain activity by looking at a computer screen. Each subject was encouraged to ‘shape their brainwaves’ by using physiological relaxation combined with positive mental activity. None of the participants were briefed as to the type of experiment or which group they were assigned until the study was over.

Participants were rewarded with a pleasant image when they successfully enhanced their specific type of brain activity through the use of ISC. Data concerning sleep quality and depression for each participant, as well as data about memory and intelligence were also collected. Each person was asked to associate word-pairs before and after a 90-minute nap in the laboratory. Naps were taken before and after each treatment session.

Future studies will focus on the effects of ISC on various cognitive tasks as well as address the potential clinical significance for the long-term treatment of insomnia.

Two-time USA Memory Champion, Ron White shared this article.

Sources: – Learning to shape your brain activity: