Scientists from the University of Bern conducted a study and found that sleep plays an important role in memory and learning, and strange dreams help the brain learn. The results of the work were published in the journal eLife.

According to researchers, two types of phases alternate during sleep: non-REM sleep and REM sleep. In the first, the brain seems to reproduce the sensory stimuli that were experienced during wakefulness, and in the second, spontaneous bursts of intense brain activity lead to vivid dreams. As long as the brain receives new impressions, learning takes place. However, in life they are not always enough, a person acts mechanically, without using mental abilities.

“We lack a theory that links this to the consolidation of experience, the generalization of concepts, and creativity,” said the lead author of the study, Nicolas Deperrois.

The researchers were able to prove the importance of dreams thanks to the Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) machine learning methodology and the modeling of the cerebral cortex. During the experiment, it turned out that the alternation of sleep phases activates brain cells during vivid or strange dreams, which as a result affect the process of perception and reproduction of information. The authors also clarified that restless dreams are generated by recalling isolated episodic memories.

Thus, wakefulness, memoryless sleep, and REM sleep serve complementary functions for learning. However, scientists do not stop there and continue research to prove the evolutionary role of sleep. According to experts, strange dreams should not be surprising, because they are the result of the brain organizing the information received.


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