Sunday, August 13, 2017

Motor-mouth language (and pronunciation): learning through "sleep napnia"

"Give me a break!" (This is your brain talking after a hard day of learning.) One of the fundamental
principles of hypnotherapy, and many similar frameworks, is that at critical points in the process, conscious attention to learning must be suspended. Unless it is, little or nothing will be retained or integrated. One of the ways we do that, of course, is sleep. (In hypnosis that is done very intentionally.)
A fascinating "rat" study, summarized by Neuroscience News, “Neural reactivations during sleep determine network credit assignment” by Gulati, Guo, Ramanathan, Bodepudi and Ganguly of University of California - San Francisco, explored how the brain consolidates motor learning during sleep. Let me translate the conclusion hidden in that title for you. 

They found that deep sleep was required for the brain to, in effect, sort out what was relevant and functionally important in learning a complex motor task, separating out and discarding all the false starts and exploratory moves required to finally get it "right." They could actually watch the motor area of the brain "playing" with the new pattern repeatedly in sleep. Upon waking, if the rats who were allowed to "sleep it through", their performance was correct. If the deep sleep activity was, in effect, injected with a little static that did not let the extraneous "moves" be backgrounded efficiently, the pattern was not readily available to the rat when conscious again. 

Hope that long "unpack" did not put you to sleep! The research on the function and necessity of sleep for learning is long established. Here is one takeaway for pronunciation teaching, or the use of gesture in language teaching in general

In our highly physical, "motorized" experiential work in haptic pronunciation teaching, we long ago recognized that learning how to use the pedagogical movement patterns (specifically created gestures tied to sound patterns) took time--and time off. In other words, you work on the movements for a few minutes and then set it aside, without even THINKING about mastery. That comes later, days later, pretty much without you even thinking about it. For the perfectionist and control freak, the haptic system can be quite a challenge initially.

We can't require that students get a good night's sleep or even a nap occasionally. There is also probably no feasible way right now to research that, but the principle is important. At least efficient, simple motor learning requires sleep to sort things out. In addition, the learning experience has to be relatively free of extraneous static being encoded or absorbed along with it as it is happening.

One of the primary contributions of touch in the haptic system is strong, temporary focusing of attention on the coordinated sound and gesture being learned. That should include enhanced body awareness and decluttering of the visual field. When the brain then works on the pattern that evening in the sack, it should have even a little less interference to play with and work through.

Pronunciation, as motor-based as it is,  is certainly nothing to lose sleep over!

Definitions of motor-mouth!

"Napnia" (a neologism) defined: Taking a nap to learn in or by!

Original source:
UCSF (2017, August 11). Deep Sleep Reinforces the Learning of New Motor Skills. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved August 11, 2017 from Sleep Reinforces the Learning of New Motor Skills/

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