Sleep Tucks Away Information

Learning consolidated during slumber, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 27, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The things you learned today will likely be consolidated by your brain while you sleep tonight, suggests a Belgian study in the latest issue of Neuron.

The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) to analyze the brain activity of sleeping people who had just learned to navigate through a computer-generated virtual town. The results showed this new spatial information was consolidated during their deep sleep.

The study also found the level of activity in the hippocampus -- the brain's learning center -- while the volunteers slept correlated with improved memory performance when they were tested the next day.

"A growing body of experimental evidence shows the influence of sleep on the consolidation of recent memory traces. The underlying hypothesis posits that the information that is acquired during wakefulness is actively altered, restructured and strengthened during sleep," the study authors wrote.

"Our results provide critical evidence that spatial memory traces are processed during NREM (non rapid eye movement) sleep in humans. Moreover, the hippocampal activity during sleep is shown to correlate with the improvement in memory performance on the next day. To the extent of our knowledge, this effect has not yet been reported in the animal hippocampus," they wrote.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about memory.

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Oct. 27, 2004
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