In general, it is believed that sleep leads to a disconnection of a person from the outside world. However, it has not yet been precisely determined what happens during the REM sleep phase - processing of external signals or their suppression. A group of French scientists decided to find out by using 18 participants for the experiment.
As part of the training, the subjects were offered to alternately listen to two speech streams while recording their electroencephalogram. The first stream of a meaningful informative speech was played in one ear, while meaningless phrases were played into the other ear (like the Jabberwocky poem from the "Alice through the Looking Glass" fairy tale ). That is, the second stream imitated the normal syntactic and phonological properties of an existing language, but did not carry any valuable information.
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Initially, participants were asked to focus only on the informative stream and not pay attention to nonsense. Brain activity data was recorded while awake. Then they were offered to sleep and indicators in the NREM and REM phases were fixed during this time. The dictation continued according to the “one ear - one stream” scheme.
It turned out that decoding of meaningful information received in a dream occurs in both light NREM and REM phases. The auditory stimulus is processed by the sleeping brain, and nervous reactions to external sounds are stored in the auditory cortex. However, performance during the REM phase was lower than during wakefulness and NREM sleep.
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The study provides further evidence of the close relationship between perceptual processing and depth of sleep. It was previously reported that selective perception of informative speech occurs during light NREM sleep, but disappears during slow NREM sleep, with selective suppression of informative speech during slow waves.
Based on materials from cell.com