Business

Sheepdog Sciences wants to teach you something while you sleep

Above: Todd Anderson is a co-founder of Sheepdog Sciences.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn while you were sleeping? Sheepdog Sciences believes you can and it has created a way to help you form long-term memories about something you’re studying, simply by getting you to listen to music.

Sheepdog Sciences makes a wristband that will detect whether you are sleeping.

Above: Sheepdog Sciences makes a wristband that will detect whether you are sleeping.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

If that sounds intriguing, keep reading, because it’s not a load of crap. Todd Anderson, one of the San Francisco company’s founders, says his company’s wearable devices have been designed after years of research into the secrets of sleep. His company was among the exhibitors at Eureka Park, a startup zone at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas last week.

“We’re building a startup that helps you decide what short-term memories from today become long-term memories while you are sleeping,” Anderson said in an interview with VentureBeat.

Anderson says the system is based on real science on sleep. The research suggests that you are able to form long-term memories while you are in deep sleep, which is a detectable stage of sleep. The wearable device monitors your heartbeat and determines when you are in deep sleep. It then reactivates what you want to remember by playing music that you were listening to while you were awake and studying.

The music is a hook back to an associated memory within your brain. You play the music while you are studying, but not at any other time. Then you play that music via an Apple iOS device (like an iPhone or iPad) when you are in a state of deep sleep. That’s because deep sleep is the time when long-term memories are formed. Sheepdog’s watch sensor detects when you are in a deep sleep. When you are, Sheepdog plays the music in the hopes of triggering the memory of what you were studying and then forming a long-term memory.

Sheepdog sciences has patents on its study method.

Above: Sheepdog sciences has patents on its study method.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

The company was started by four scientists who are experts in sleep and biomedical research. The team includes Dan Wetmore, Robert Baretto, Alex Butterwick, and Anderson. All of them have doctorates. And they have secured two patents so far on sleep memory systems, numbered 8,573,980 and 8,382,484 by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

“It’s pretty much all science, based on published literature in the past five or six years,” Anderson said. “We read these papers while grad students of neuroscience at the time.”

They received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The company tested its theory by studying 45 people using a memory game that resembled concentration. It showed the group of people 30 images. Each of them was associated with a unique sound. When the image appeared on the screen in front of the people, it was associated with a sound. People practiced. Then they went to sleep. Sheepdog Sciences played back 15 of the sounds associated with the images via an iOS device.

When they woke the next day, the 45 people played the memory game again. They forgot some of the images that were not played back during the night. And they remembered the images and sounds that were played back at night. The results were significant, according to Anderson. The memory improvement was about 30 percent. This kind of experiment has already been done in academic settings.

The dashboard for the Sheepdog Sciences app can track your sleep and learning to optimize your study habits.

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