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Cleaning Up Fish Farms
Watering the Air
Salamanders and Newts
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Hot Pepper, Hot Spider
Young Ants in the Kitchen
Bee Disease
Surprise Visitor
Baby Talk
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The metal detector in your mouth
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Computers with Attitude
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Electronic Paper Turns a Page
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Watery Fate for Nature's Gliders
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Ancient Critter Caught Shedding Its Skin
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Shrinking Glaciers
Quick Quake Alerts
A Volcano's Deadly Ash
Plant Gas
Sounds and Silence
Inspired by Nature
Finding the Past
Stone Tablet May Solve Maya Mystery
Oldest Writing in the New World
Digging Up Stone Age Art
Hammerhead Sharks
Whale Sharks
A Jellyfish's Blurry View
Food and Nutrition
Sponges' secret weapon
Chocolate Rules
A Pepper Part that Burns Fat
GSAT English Rules
Who vs. That vs. Which
Finding Subjects and Verbs
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GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
Mastering The GSAT Exam
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GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Scholarship
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Deep-space dancers
Secrets of an Ancient Computer
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Human Body
Taking the sting out of scorpion venom
Heart Revival
Foul Play?
African Mammals
Sea Lions
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How children learn
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
Extra Strings for New Sounds
Gaining a Swift Lift
Thinner Air, Less Splatter
Seeds of the Future
A Giant Flower's New Family
Flower family knows its roots
Space and Astronomy
A Moon's Icy Spray
Baby Star
Dark Galaxy
Technology and Engineering
Spinach Power for Solar Cells
Riding Sunlight
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
The Parts of Speech
Problems with Prepositions
What is a Preposition?
Flying the Hyper Skies
Charged cars that would charge
Where rivers run uphill
A Dire Shortage of Water
Recipe for a Hurricane
The Best Defense Is a Good Snow Fence
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Dreaming makes perfect

Dreams can be familiar and strange, fantastical or boring. No one knows for certain why people dream, but some dreams might be connected to the mental processes that help us learn. In a recent study, scientists found a connection between nap-time dreams and better memory in people who were learning a new skill. So perhaps one way to learn something new is to practice, practice, practice — and then sleep on it. (Warning: This research still doesn’t provide an excuse for falling asleep during class.) “I was startled by this finding,” Robert Stickgold told Science News. He is a cognitive neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School who worked on the study. Neuroscience is the study of how the brain and nervous system work, and cognitive studies look at how people learn and reason. So a cognitive neuroscientist may study the brain processes that help people learn. In the study, 99 college students between the ages of 18 and 30 each spent an hour on a computer, trying to get through a virtual maze. The maze was difficult, and the study participants had to start in a different place each time they tried — making it even more difficult. They were also told to find a particular picture of a tree and remember where it was. For the first 90 minutes of a five-hour break, half of the participants stayed awake and half were told to take a short nap. Participants who stayed awake were asked to describe their thoughts. Participants who took a nap were asked about their dreams before sleep and after sleep — and they were awakened within a minute of sleep to describe their dreams. Stickgold and his colleagues wanted to know about NREM, or non-REM sleep. REM stands for “rapid eye movement,” which is what happens during REM sleep. This period of sleep often brings bizarre dreams to a sleeper, although dreams can happen in both modes of sleep. Stickgold wanted to know what people were dreaming about when their eyes weren’t moving, during NREM sleep. In other studies, scientists had found a connection between NREM brain activity and learning ability in rats and in people. Four of the 50 people who slept said their dreams were connected to the maze. Some dreamed about the music that had been playing when they were working; others said they dreamed about seeing people in the maze. When these four people tried the computer maze again, they were able to find the tree faster than before their naps. Stickgold suggests the dream itself doesn’t help a person learn — it’s the other way around. He suspects that the dream was caused by the brain processes associated with learning. All four of the people who dreamed about the task had done poorly the first time, which makes Stickgold wonder if the NREM dreams show up when a person finds a new task particularly difficult. People who had other dreams, or people who didn’t take a nap, didn’t show the same improvement.

Dreaming makes perfect
Dreaming makes perfect

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