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May 8, 2020

Sleep Study

Students who listened to Beethoven during lecture -- and heard the same music in Dreamland -- did better on the test the next day.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions

Sleep study.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

A research project at Baylor University is using the music of the great masters to help you master the material -- while you sleep. (Sound effect: snoring)

This is not about the so-called 'Mozart effect' -- an unproven theory that listening to classical music improves certain kinds of reasoning. It's about TMR -- targeting memory reactivation.

Fifty students were given a self-paced computer-interactive lecture on microeconomics presented while selections by Mozart, Vivaldi and Chopin played in the background.

That night, off to dreamland in the Baylor sleep lab -- brain activity monitored by EEGs. During the 'deep sleep' phase, technicians replayed the classical pieces for some of the participants, (Sound effect: white noise) but played only white noise for others. Next day, the students were tested on the material.

Result? Hearing the music during sleep increased performance by eighteen percent on questions that integrated concepts and more than doubled the likelihood of passing the test. Downside: In a follow up test nine months later, both groups forgot almost everything. (Sound effect: womp womp) The researchers think repeating the music on multiple nights could change that and yield long-term benefits.

Using music as-a-way to reactivate and strengthen memories of what you learned earlier. Might say it gives new meaning to 'taking notes.'

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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