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Researchers from Northwestern University focused on whether targeted memory reactivation (TMR) can help improve face-name association. TMR is a process in which an individual associates a sound, smell, or other cue with new information in order to better recall the information when that cue is reactivated.
Study participants memorized 80 faces and corresponding names. To learn the information, they viewed an image of the face and the matching written name. They also heard the name aloud as well as specific music. After participants practiced learning the faces and names with memorization exercises, they were allowed to nap.
Using brainwave monitors to determine when the participants had reached deep sleep, researchers then softly played audio recordings of the names along with the associated music, without waking the participants.
The study found that presenting the soft music and audio recordings of the names during deep sleep positively influenced two aspects of participants’ memory: the ability to recognize a face they learned as well as their ability to match that face to the correct name.
Participants remembered 75% of the names and faces after napping with exposure to the audio, compared to their lower scores before sleep. Individuals who spent more uninterrupted time in slow-wave sleep experienced more benefits of the memory reactivation.
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