Students learned better by listening to classical music during lectures and sleep

By Team

Researchers at Baylor University shared the results of an interesting experiment. Classical melodies were played twice for one (test) group during an interactive lecture on microeconomics and during sleep. Another group just listened to the lecture and slept with white noise in the background. The next day, the "musical group" showed better results in testing the material learned the day before.

The study involved 50 students aged 18 to 33 years. For the first group of participants during the lecture, the following fragments of musical compositions were played: the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Piano Sonata, the first movement of Vivaldi's "Spring" Violin Concerto and Chopin's Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2, while to the second group the material was provided as usual, without background accompaniment.

At night, specialists determined the onset of the deep sleep stage and turned on previously heard compositions for the first (test) group and just a white noise for the second (control) group. Playback time was approximately 15 minutes in both cases.

Researchers note the importance of song selection and sleep stages. For example, jazz would most likely wake participants. Pop music and sounds of nature were also excluded due to the brain tends to ignore them. The REM stage wasn’t considered as well as it is easy to wake the person at this time.

The next day, the test group doubled the likelihood of passing the test when compared with the control group. This confirmed earlier studies by Israeli and other researchers that memories reinforced by sensory signals, whether smell or audio, are re-activated when the signal is received again during sleep.

Co-researcher Chenlu Gao, a doctoral candidate of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, commented on the results as follows:

“Our study suggests it is possible to re-activate and strengthen existing memories of lecture materials during sleep. The next step is to implement this technique in classrooms -- or in online lectures while students complete their education at home due to COVID-19 social distancing measures”.

Though it is naive to believe that a one-time association will help to achieve a bright memory and remember previously studied knowledge after a few months (for example, before the final exam), most likely the music will have to be played during several nights in a row. In order to learn and consolidate knowledge it is necessary after a while to repeat the material and, obviously, get enough sleep.

In fact, it was once again confirmed that targeted memory reactivation during the deep sleep stage moves memories from temporary storage in one part of the brain to more permanent storage in other parts. Participants improved concept integration by about 20%. Also, the participants with increased activity of the frontal lobes during the slow sleep phase performed even better.

Hypnopedia developers relied on similar research to create an application for improving mental health. It stimulates brain activity during sleep and sets a positive mindset on a consistent basis. You can download it here:

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Sleep parameters were measured using EEG, and educational materials did not go beyond the usual course of microeconomics for colleges. Along the way, the study showed that 60% of students sleep less than the recommended seven hours. On average, bad sleeping occurs every 3-4 nights.

Based on the article by

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