04/22/2013 08:48 am ET

Sounds Synced With Brain Waves Could Help Enhance Memory During Sleep, Study Suggests


Playing sounds with certain rhythms could enhance memory during sleep, new research suggests.

A small study published in the journal Neuron shows that when sounds are played during sleep that go along with the slow oscillations in brain waves that occur during sleep, that actually helps to enhance memory.

The findings show "a straightforward tool for clinical settings to enhance sleep rhythms," study researcher Dr. Jan Born, of the University of Tubingen in Germany, said in a statement

For the study, 11 participants learned word associations in the evening before undergoing sound stimulation during sleep that night. On different nights, the study participants were exposed to sound stimulations that went along with their brain wave oscillations, or sham stimulations that weren't in-sync with the brain wave oscillations.

Researchers found that when the participants were exposed to the stimulations that were synchronized with their brain waves, they remembered more of the word associations from the night before. However, the sham stimulations didn't seem to have any effect on the participants' ability to remember the word associations.

Further research may reveal that that these synchronized sounds might also be able to "enhance other brain rhythms with obvious functional significance -- like rhythms that occur during wakefulness and are involved in the regulation of attention," Born said in the statement.

Sounds can help provide brain benefits beyond sleep, too. recently, researchers from Chiang Mai University in Thailand found that binaural beats -- which are made up of two tones at different frequencies, that are supposed to have a relaxing effect by spurring certain brainwaves -- can help to lessen anxiety and slow heart rate among people who are undergoing stressful cataract surgery.

11 Health Benefits Of Music