As you fall asleep to a good night’s doze, your brain may continue to be active and pay attention to unfamiliar voices during sleep as per a study at the University of Salzburg, Society for Neuroscience, published in JNeurosci.
This ability allows the brain to monitor the environment and thereby balance sleep by responding to these cues unfamiliar voices over familiar ones.
‘Brain monitors the balance between sleep and environment by responding to unfamiliar voices over familiar ones.’
The study team measured the brain activity of sleeping adults in response to familiar and unfamiliar voices.
It was found that unfamiliar voices elicited more K-complexes a type of brain wave linked to sensory perturbances during sleep, compared to familiar voices. Moreover, unfamiliar voices triggered large-scale changes in sensory processing-related brain activity.
The findings thereby indicate that the brain may still be able to learn during sleep by entering into a “sentinel processing mode”.