How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, kid, practice - and sleep.
BBC News is reporting that a 2004 Belgian study used a video game to examine whether a good night's sleep improved one's ability to successfully navigate from point to point. The game of choice? Duke Nukem 3D.
AE: Go figure. Duke Nukem 3D, released in 1996, was eight-years-old at the time of the study.
Conducted by the University of Liege, the study examined volunteers' brain activity while they made their way through one of DN3D's sprawling environments. Given time to explore the level, participants were then asked to navigate to specific landmarks as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, researchers mapped their brain activity via MRI. Results showed that the hippocampus, a portion of the brain dedicated to memory and direction, was the most active.
Volunteers were then split into two groups: those who were allowed a good night's sleep and those who were not. Further MRI data showed that while the sleep-deprived group continued to do most of their mental work in their hippocampi, the other extracted information from the striatum, making navigation more automatic.
"If you have slept, you use a means of navigation that is less thoughtful," explains Pierre Orban, one of the study's authors. "You somehow know that you have to turn left, or right or carry straight on."
The study concluded that sleep helps transfer memory from the hippocampus to the striatum, facilitating less work when recalling spatial facts. However, despite the increase in mental efficiency, both memory retrieval methods produced effective navigational results, indicating that sleep deprivation affects mental function but not behavior.
AE: Having trouble navigating alien-ravaged L.A.? Try taking a nap. Having trouble sleeping? Try reading the full study. And say, will extreme vaporware sequel Duke Nukem Forever ever get released? Don't bet a good night's sleep on it.
-Saving San Diego babes from the alien bastards, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen