Discovery of How Sleep Influences the Consolidation of Memory

News Brief by Ted Midthun

           One of the greatest challenges for college students is getting the recommended amount of sleep. A new study, written by neuroscientists at the University of California Riverside, and published in the Journal of Neuroscience, provides more insight into the importance of sleep and its correlation with memory retention. Sleep is essential to retaining information, especially long-term memory. However, the mechanisms for how this process unfolds are not well understood. For the first time, a study sheds light onto how deep sleep may promote the consolidation of memories.

           By using a computational model, the researchers found a link between the electrical activity of the brain during deep sleep and nerve impulse connection. The model shows that slow oscillations in the cortex are affected by hippocampal waves, and that these changes determine changes within the cortex. It is these cortical changes that are thought to be involved in memory storage. “We interpret these results as a mechanistic explanation for the consolidation of specific memories during deep sleep,” says Yina Wei, lead author of the study. This hippocampal input activates select memories and promotes the reiteration of certain ones as well. These results suggest that the hippocampus is crucial in influencing the brain’s ability to transfer information to the cortex, the storage location for long-term information. Another important takeaway from the model is its ability to be tested experimentally, with possible interventions that could increase or subdue memory consolidation. While some take for granted the benefits of sleep, this study helps to reinforce its connections with memory retention.

 

University of California - Riverside. (2016, April 14). How the brain consolidates memory during  deep sleep: Using a computational model, study explains how hippocampus influences synaptic  connections in cortex.ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2016 from  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160414214830.htm