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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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How You Can Reinforce Learning While You Sleep

June 28, 2012, 12:00 PM

What's the Latest Development?

Researchers at Northwestern University have found that memories of learned processes can be activated during sleep and strengthened in the process. In an experiment, participants learned to play two short musical pieces and then took a nap. While they slept, scientists played one of the tunes that had been practiced, but not the other. "Participants made fewer errors when pressing the keys to produce a melody that had been presented while they slept, compared to the melody not presented." By measuring the brain's electrical activity, scientists ensured the music was played during deep sleep, rather than REM or while dreaming. 

What's the Big Idea?

For as long as playback devices have existed, people have dreamt of effortlessly learning a new language while they sleep. Unfortunately, memory strengthening techniques only work for processes you have already learned. "If you were learning how to speak in a foreign language during the day, [however], and then tried to reactivate those memories during sleep, perhaps you might enhance your learning," said Paul J. Reber, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern and a co-author of the study. Scientists are seeking to improve memory storage by understanding how the brain works when you are asleep. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com



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