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Learn to play piano in your sleep

Not really, but hearing known songs during a snooze may help people play them later

By
4:16pm, June 24, 2012

A dreamland ditty played softly during a nap helps people hit the right notes while awake. Soft tones during sleep creep into the napping brain and strengthen playing skills, researchers report online June 24 in Nature Neuroscience.

The results don’t mean that after a nighttime Beethoven sonata, a piano novice will wake up with the ability to play it. But the results do suggest that an existing skill can be sharpened during a nap, says study coauthor Ken Paller of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. 

Earlier work by Paller and others has found that sound and odor cues during sleep can improve a person’s memory for the locations of objects. The new study extends those results by showing that a learned skill — in this instance, playing music — can also be influenced during sleep.  Although these sorts of experiments are just getting started, “the door is wide open,” Paller says. Musical ability, athletic pr

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