You may think that your little newborn baby is peacefully sleeping; but new research is showing us that even when asleep, babies may actually be learning!
While we have known for a while now that sleep causes memories to take shape and to consolidate within the brain, apparently that is not all that babies do when asleep.
According to William P. Fifer, PhD, of Columbia University, and colleagues and their study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, babies may be learning even when asleep.
In the study, 34 healthy infants between 10 and 73 hours after their birth were assessed by being outfitted with cardiorespiratory sensors and a high-density electroencephalographic (EEG) net.
When asleep, a tone was played in the babies’ ear, which was followed by a puff of air to the right eye. The babies were quick to form the association between the tone and the subsequent puff of air, so that the babies were squeezing their eyes tighter after the tone, in anticipation of the puff of air. A classic Pavlovian response is learnt in the sleep by newborn infants!
It is thought that this research will come in useful to understand the mechanisms of baby sleep and the challenges they undergo when asleep and perhaps may even shed light on SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).