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Health Fusion: Your brain keys into unfamiliar voices while you sleep

While you snooze, your brain stays busy and alert. It pays attention to unfamiliar voices. In this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion," Viv Williams shares details of emerging research about how your brain keeps working while you count sheep.

Man and dog napping
While you sleep, your brain stays busy
Photo illustration by Metro Newspaper Service
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ROCHESTER — Have you ever heard that we only ever use about 10% of our brains? Emerging research about the complexity of our brains contradicts that idea.

Take, for example, new research from the University of Salzburg in Austria. Neuroscientists there have found that while you snooze, your brain stays busy and pays attention to unfamiliar voices. They say that during sleep your brain is doing a balancing act. It helps protect your sleep, but also it stays alert to help you know if you should wake up.

By measuring the brain activity of people exposed to familiar and unfamiliar voices while they slept, the researchers found that your brain enters into what they call a "sentinel processing mode." During that state, your brain is asleep, but it can still process important info, such as the presence of unfamiliar voices.

They also found evidence that the brain may be able to learn when you're asleep. Because brainwaves changed as unfamiliar voices became more familiar over time.

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While your mind and body rest, it seems that your brain continues to work to promote good health.

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The research is published in JNeurosci.

Follow the Health Fusion podcast on Apple , Spotify , and Google Podcasts.

For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at vwilliams@newsmd.com . Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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