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AAN: Sleep Protects Memory from Associative Interference

Study results show how sleep disorders may worsen memory problems in dementia patients

TUESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep protects declarative memories from associative interference, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston.

Jeffrey Ellenbogen, M.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues randomly assigned 48 healthy adults aged 18 to 30 to one of four groups: a wake group without interference, a wake group with interference, a sleep group without interference and a sleep group with interference. The researchers tested the subjects' ability to recall word pairs 12 hours later (from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the wake group, and from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. in the sleep group). Associative interference was measured by asking some subjects to memorize a second group of word pairs prior to testing.

The researchers found that the sleep group without interference could recall only 12 percent more word pairs than the wake group without interference. But the sleep group with interference could recall a significant 44 percent more word pairs than the wake group with interference.

"This is the first study to demonstrate that sleep protects declarative memories from associative interference," the authors conclude. "Results have important implications for understanding the neurobiology of memory consolidation and important applications for patients with dementia and sleep disorders."


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