A nap to recap: How reward, daytime sleep boost learning

News Brief by Catie Donlon

        A recent study from the University of Geneva has found that sleep may help strengthen memories that are associated with rewards. In their experiment, 31 volunteers were trained to remember pairs of images and were told that if they remembered four or more pairs, they would receive a reward. Before their memory was tested, participants were given a 90-minute break in which one group of volunteers slept while another group stayed awake. Then the volunteers’ memories of the paired images were tested while fMRI scans were taken to measure brain activity.  After the memory test, the participants were asked how confident they were in their answers. The same memory test was performed three months later. The study found that the group that slept after learning performed better than the awake group both after 90 minutes and after 3 months. Not only that, but the sleeping group was more confident in its answers. The fMRI scans showed that the sleeping group also had more activity in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for forming memories, as well as a stronger connection between the hippocampus, the medial prefrontal cortex, and the striatum. These brain areas are involved in the consolidation of memories and rewards. These results led the scientists at the University of Geneva to conclude that sleep helps memories be transferred to long-term memory and that sleep may help increase learning. 

eLife. (2015, October 16). A nap to recap: How reward, daytime sleep boost learning: Findings could benefit educators.ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151016135315.htm