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Snooze Power: Midday nap may awaken learning potential

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1:05pm, May 29, 2002

Naps aren't just for the very young, old, and slothful. Daytime dozing may enhance a person's capacity to learn certain tasks.

That, at least, is the eye-opening implication of a new study in which college students were challenged to detect subtle changes in an image during four different test sessions on the same day.

Participants improved on the task throughout the first session, says psychologist Sara C. Mednick of Harvard University and her colleagues. The students' speed and accuracy then leveled off during the second session.

The scores of the participants who didn't nap declined throughout the final two sessions. In contrast, volunteers who took a 30-minute nap after completing the second practice session showed no ensuing performance dips. What's more, 1-hour nappers responded progressively faster and more accurately in the third and fourth sessions.

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