Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study shows how sleep improves memory

29.06.2005


A good night’s sleep triggers changes in the brain that help to improve memory, according to a new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).



These findings, reported in the June 30, 2005, issue of the journal Neuroscience and currently published on-line, might help to explain why children – infants, in particular – require much more sleep than adults, and also suggest a role for sleep in the rehabilitation of stroke patients and other individuals who have suffered brain injuries.

"Our previous studies demonstrated that a period of sleep could help people improve their performance of ’memory tasks,’ such as playing piano scales," explains the study’s lead author Matthew Walker, PhD, director of BIDMC’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory. "But we didn’t know exactly how or why this was happening.


"In this new research, by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we can actually see which parts of the brain are active and which are inactive while subjects are being tested, enabling us to better understand the role of sleep to memory and learning."

New memories are formed within the brain when a person engages with information to be learned (for example, memorizing a list of words or mastering a piano concerto). However, these memories are initially quite vulnerable; in order to "stick" they must be solidified and improved. This process of "memory consolidation" occurs when connections between brain cells as well as between different brain regions are strengthened, and for many years was believed to develop merely as a passage of time. More recently, however, it has been demonstrated that time spent asleep also plays a key role in preserving memory.

In this new study, twelve healthy, college-aged individuals were taught a sequence of skilled finger movements, similar to playing a piano scale. After a 12- hour period of either wake or sleep, respectively, the subjects were tested on their ability to recall these finger movements while an MRI measured the activity of their brain.

According to Walker, who is also an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, the MRI results showed that while some areas of the brain were distinctly more active after a period of sleep, other areas were noticeably less active. But together, the changes brought about by sleep resulted in improvements in the subjects’ motor skill performance.

"The cerebellum, which functions as one of the brain’s motor centers controlling speed and accuracy, was clearly more active when the subjects had had a night of sleep," he explains. At the same time, the MRIs showed reduced activity in the brain’s limbic system, the region that controls for emotions, such as stress and anxiety.

"The MRI scans are showing us that brain regions shift dramatically during sleep," says Walker. "When you’re asleep, it seems as though you are shifting memory to more efficient storage regions within the brain. Consequently, when you awaken, memory tasks can be performed both more quickly and accurately and with less stress and anxiety."

The end result is that procedural skills – for example, learning to talk, to coordinate limbs, musicianship, sports, even using and interpreting sensory and perceptual information from the surrounding world -- become more automatic and require the use of fewer conscious brain regions to be accomplished.

This new research may explain why children and teenagers need more sleep than adults and, in particular, why infants sleep almost round the clock.

"Sleep appears to play a key role in human development," says Walker. "At 12 months of age, infants are in an almost constant state of motor skill learning, coordinating their limbs and digits in a variety of routines. They have an immense amount of new material to consolidate and, consequently, this intensive period of learning may demand a great deal of sleep."

The new findings may also prove to be important to patients who have suffered brain injuries, for example, stroke patients, who have to re-learn language, limb control, etc.

"Perhaps sleep will prove to be another critical factor in a stroke patient’s rehabilitation," he notes, adding that in the future he and his colleagues plan to examine sleep disorders and memory disorders to determine if there is a reciprocal relationship between the two.

"If you look at modern society, there has in recent years been a considerable erosion of sleep time," says Walker. Describing this trend as "sleep bulimia" he explains that busy individuals often shortchange their sleep during the week – purging, if you will – only to try to catch up by "binging" on sleep on the weekends.

"This is especially troubling considering it is happening not just among adults, but also among teenagers and children," he adds. "Our research is demonstrating that sleep is critical for improving and consolidating procedural skills and that you can’t short-change your brain of sleep and still learn effectively."

Study co-authors include BIDMC researchers Gottfried Schlaug, MD, PhD, Robert Stickgold, PhD, David Alsop, PhD and Nadine Gaab, PhD.

Bonnie Prescott | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bidmc.harvard.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Positrons as a new tool for lithium ion battery research: Holes in the electrode

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New insights into the information processing of motor neurons

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Healthy Hiking in Smart Socks

22.02.2017 | Innovative Products

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>