The human brain functions much like a switchboard that is teeming with all types of electrical activity. When the brain receives a stimulus from a sound or a smell, the brain must decide if the stimulus is something about which a person should be made aware. The sensation remains in our memory even if the person does not wake up. It is a common belief that our ears are on all the time. If we are asleep and dreaming, we are still processing environmental sounds.
No Rest For The Brain
When we sleep, the brain does not rest; it is very active during sleep. There are changes in the electrical activity of the brain during sleep due to the trillions of nerve cells rewiring themselves. It is this rewiring that allows us to process and retain new information. Sleep is essential for maintaining the pathway in your brain that helps you to learn and create new memories. The brain also removes toxins in your brain that build up during the time you are awake. This activity of the brain also makes hearing while you sleep possible. It is this ability to hear while asleep that is the focus of a new research study involving preschool children.
A group of researchers from Vanderbilt University is studying preschool children to answer the question of what the children hear during sleep. The purpose of this EEG study is to show traces of sounds heard during the children’s nap time. This project is among the first of its kind to determine how sleep environments affect pre-school children.
The team uses a portable EEG machine to test individual children in silent, isolated rooms during the children’s nap time at the university preschool. When the children are sleeping, the investigators play three nonsense words to each child for a short period.
All the children demonstrated a recognition of the test sounds when lined up with other nonsense words that the children did not hear during the study. The indication is that the children process sensory information even when they are asleep. The team was able to verify that the children were asleep before the administration of the sounds. The research team considers that this study may serve as a critical first step in understanding the process in children who use hearing technology because of hearing loss but who do not use the devices while sleeping.
Never Stop Working
The brain is indeed a workhorse that never stops working. Even during sleep, the neural activity within the brain is still active. When we sleep, it is also a time for the brain to rewire the delicate nerve cells that reside within the brain and to maintain the pathway for learning and creating new memories. Thanks to new research, we are closer to understanding our ability to hear during sleep. Hopefully, this information will help to shed more light on the mysteries surrounding the brain and its impact on our hearing ability.