Sleep Science Podcast

Episode 5: Anat Arzi & Thomas Andrillon - Learning in your sleep

September 21, 2020 Penny Lewis Season 1 Episode 5
Sleep Science Podcast
Episode 5: Anat Arzi & Thomas Andrillon - Learning in your sleep
Show Notes

We humans have long wondered if it is possible to learn while we sleep but, experimental findings on this have often been disappointing. You will now be happy to learn that the tide has turned in this respect, since we now have firm proof that it IS indeed possible to learn new information while you sleep.  However - the information your brain can pick up in this manner might not exactly go as easy as you hope it would. 

In this episode, we interviewed Dr. Anat Arzi and Dr. Thomas Andrillon two of the first researchers to incontrovertibly demonstrate that the human brain can learn during sleep. They tell us about the similarities and the differences between their results and we speculate about the possible reasons behind the disparities.

Produced by:  Eniko Simo

See the web profiles of Anat and Thomas:

Publications discussed in the program:

 Humans can learn new information during sleep; Arzi, A. et. al. Nat. Neuroscie. 2012.
o   Olfactory aversive conditioning during sleep reduces cigarette-smoking behavior; Arzi A. et. al. Journal of Neuroscience 2014.
o   Formation and suppression of acoustic memories during human sleep.  Andrillon, T. et. al. Nature Communications, 2017.
o   Sleepers Selectively Suppress Informative Inputs during Rapid Eye Movements.  Andrillon, T. et. al. Current Biology, 2020.


Associative learning = a learning process in which a new response becomes associated with a particular stimulus.

Perceptual learning = repeated exposure enhances the ability to discriminate between two (or more) otherwise confusable stimuli.

Aversive learning = a form of conditioning where an aversion is created toward a targeted behaviour or item by pairing it with an unpleasant stimulus. 

Thalamic gate = the thalamus filters sensory information. All sensory inputs go through the thalamus except for olfaction (sense of smell). 

Peaks & Troughs = the highest and lowest points of oscillations. In this case, of the brain waves during Slow Wave Sleep. 

Tag = a marker that can be attached to some kind of information indicating that it has a special status (e.g. it may be more strongly replayed or consolidated)