Published on April 12th, 2014 | by No Artificial
Sleep Helps Strengthen Memory, New Study Suggests
According to a new study in rats, sleep may aid in the reinforcement of memory.
A new research suggests that rats’ memory of a specific odor was strengthened when they were exposed to that aroma during slow-wave sleep, compared with when they were exposed to the odor during wakefulness.
“We know that during slow-wave sleep, the brain’s sensory systems are far less responsive to normal inputs,” study researcher Donald Wilson, Ph.D. of the NYU Langone Medical Center and Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research wrote in a statement. “Our data suggest this sensory isolation may help allow replay of learned information in the absence of external interference, providing strong, precise memory of important information.”
The rats were initially conditioned to recognize a particular odor by being applied a mild foot shock during wakefulness in response to the odor information; the rats’ fear response to the odor was used as a gauge of their memory of the odor.
Then the rats were exposed to the odor during the slow-wave sleep, their memory of that smell was enhanced compared with rats who had the odor replayed when they were awake or who never had the odor replayed at all.
“Our findings confirm the importance of brain activity during sleep for both memory strength and accuracy,” Wilson stated in a statement. “What we think is happening is that during slow-wave sleep, neurons in the brain communicate with each other, and in doing so, strengthen their connections, permitting storage of specific information.”
This study, publish in the Journal of Neuroscience, has proved that sleep can help to strengthen memories.