Other studies have shown that sleep consolidates learning for a new task. The new study, which measured starlings’ ability to recognize new songs, shows that learning a second task can undermine the performance of a previously learned task. But this study is the first to show that a good night’s sleep helps the brain retain both new memories.
Starlings provide an excellent model for studying memory because of fundamental biological similarities between avian and mammalian brains, scholars wrote in the paper, “Sleep Consolidation of Interfering Auditory Memories in Starlings,” published in the current online edition of Psychological Science.
“These observations demonstrate that sleep consolidation enhances retention of interfering experiences, facilitating daytime learning and the subsequent formation of stable memories,” the authors wrote.
The paper was written by Timothy Brawn, a graduate researcher in psychology at UChicago; Howard Nusbaum, professor of psychology; and Daniel Margoliash, professor of psychology, organismal biology and anatomy. Nusbaum is a leading expert on learning, and Margoliash is a pioneer in the research of brain function and its development in birds.
For the study, the researchers conducted two experiments using 24 starlings each. They played two recorded songs from other starlings and tested the birds’ ability to recognize and repeat the two songs. After learning to recognize the two songs, the birds were later trained to recognize and perform a different pair of songs.
In their experiments, the authors examined the effect of sleep on the consolidation of starlings’ memories. After learning the second pair of songs, they were tested on the first before they went to sleep. They varied the time between testing.
Researchers found that learning the second pair of songs interfered with the birds’ ability to remember the first pair, regardless of the time between the daytime testing periods. Learning the first pair of songs also interfered with the birds’ ability to remember the second pair when they were tested on the second pair before they went to sleep.
When the starlings were allowed to sleep, however, they showed increases in performance on both the first and second pair of songs, suggesting that sleep consolidation enhances their memory, overcoming the effects of interference. When taught a new song pair after awaking, the birds were still able to remember what they had learned on the previous day, despite the new interference.
“The study demonstrates that sleep restores performance and makes learning robust against interference encountered after sleep. This process is critical to the formation and stability of long-term memories,” Nusbaum said.
William Harms | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.uchicago.edu
More articles from Studies and Analyses:
A pan-European study: signs of motor disorders can appear years before disease manifestation
22.05.2013 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)
Invasive Species: "Away-Field Advantage" Weaker Than Ecologists Thought
22.05.2013 | Smithsonian Institution
A fried breakfast food popular in Spain provided the inspiration for the development of doughnut-shaped droplets that may provide scientists with a new approach for studying fundamental issues in physics, mathematics and materials.
The doughnut-shaped droplets, a shape known as toroidal, are formed from two dissimilar liquids using a simple rotating stage and an injection needle. About a millimeter in overall size, the droplets are produced individually, their shapes maintained by a surrounding springy material made of polymers.
Droplets in this toroidal shape made ...
Frauhofer FEP will present a novel roll-to-roll manufacturing process for high-barriers and functional films for flexible displays at the SID DisplayWeek 2013 in Vancouver – the International showcase for the Display Industry.
Displays that are flexible and paper thin at the same time?! What might still seem like science fiction will be a major topic at the SID Display Week 2013 that currently takes place in Vancouver in Canada.
High manufacturing cost and a short lifetime are still a major obstacle on ...
University of Würzburg physicists have succeeded in creating a new type of laser.
Its operation principle is completely different from conventional devices, which opens up the possibility of a significantly reduced energy input requirement. The researchers report their work in the current issue of Nature.
It also emits light the waves of which are in phase with one another: the polariton laser, developed ...
Innsbruck physicists led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller experimentally gained a deep insight into the nature of quantum mechanical phase transitions.
They are the first scientists that simulated the competition between two rival dynamical processes at a novel type of transition between two quantum mechanical orders. They have published the results of their work in the journal Nature Physics.
“When water boils, its molecules are released as vapor. We call this ...
Researchers have shown that, by using global positioning systems (GPS) to measure ground deformation caused by a large underwater earthquake, they can provide accurate warning of the resulting tsunami in just a few minutes after the earthquake onset.
For the devastating Japan 2011 event, the team reveals that the analysis of the GPS data and issue of a detailed tsunami alert would have taken no more than three minutes. The results are published on 17 May in Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, an open access journal of ...
22.05.2013 | Life Sciences
22.05.2013 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
22.05.2013 | Earth Sciences
17.05.2013 | Event News
15.05.2013 | Event News
08.05.2013 | Event News