Selective Sleeping Stores Useful Memories
Synopsis: After a good night sleep, people remember information better when they know it will be helpful in the future. Scientists have long thought that sleep is essential for memory consolidation. The authors suggest that the brain's prefrontal cortex "tags" memories deemed relevant while awake, and the hippocampus consolidates these memories during sleep. Our results show that memory consolidation during sleep involves a primary selection process that determines which of the many pieces of the day's information is sent to long-term storage. Our findings indicate that information relevant to future demands is foremost for storage.
- Memory Consolidation
- Memory consolidation refers to the process by which a temporary, labile memory is transformed into a more stable, long-lasting form via a category of processes that stabilize a memory trace after its initial acquisition. A memory trace is a change in the nervous system caused by memorizing something. Consolidation is distinguished into two specific processes, synaptic consolidation and systems consolidation. A third process has recently become a research topic, reconsolidation, in which previously consolidated memories can be made labile again through reactivation of the memory trace.
After a good night's sleep, people remember information better when they know it will be useful in the future, according to a new study in the Feb. 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that the brain evaluates memories during sleep and preferentially retains the most relevant ones.
Humans take in large amounts of information every day. Most are encoded into memories by the brain and initially stored, but most information is quickly forgotten. In this study, a team of researchers led by Jan Born, Ph.D., of the University of Lubeck in Germany, determined how the brain decides what to keep and what to forget.
"Our results show that memory consolidation during sleep indeed involves a basic selection process that determines which of the many pieces of the day's information is sent to long-term storage," Born said. "Our findings indicate that information relevant for future demands is foremost for storage."
The researchers set up two experiments to test memory retrieval in a total of 191 volunteers. In the first experiment, people were asked to learn 40 pairs of words. Participants in the second experiment played a card game where they matched pictures of animals and objects similar to the game Concentration and practiced finger taps sequences.
In both groups, half the volunteers were told immediately following the tasks that they would be tested in 10 hours. All participants were later tested on how well they recalled their tasks.
Some, but not all, of the volunteers were allowed to sleep between the time they learned the tasks and the tests. As the authors expected, the people who slept performed better than those who didn't. But more importantly, only the people who slept and knew a test was coming had substantially improved memory recall.
The researchers also recorded electroencephalograms (EEG) from the individuals who were allowed to sleep. They found increased brain activity during deep or "slow-wave" sleep when the volunteers knew they would be tested for memory recall.
"The more slow-wave activity the sleeping participants had, the better their memory was during the recall test 10 hours later," Born said.
Scientists have long thought sleep is important in memory consolidation. The authors suggest that the brain's prefrontal cortex "tags" memories deemed relevant while awake, and the hippocampus consolidates these memories during sleep.
Gilles Einstein, Ph.D., an expert in memory at Furman University, said the new findings help explain why you are more likely to remember a conversation about impending road construction than chitchat about yesterday's weather.
"These results suggest that sleep is critical to this memory enhancement," said Einstein, who was unaffiliated with the study. "This benefit extends to both declarative memories (memory for a road detour) and procedural memories (memory for a new dance step)."
This quality-reviewed article relating to our The Human Brain section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Selective Sleeping Stores Useful Memories" was originally written by Society for Neuroscience, and published by Disabled-World.com on 2011/02/02 (Updated: 2022/06/16). Should you require further information or clarification, Society for Neuroscience can be contacted at sfn.org. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.
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Cite This Page (APA): Society for Neuroscience. (2011, February 2). Selective Sleeping Stores Useful Memories. Disabled World. Retrieved October 4, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/health/neurology/brain/sleeping-memory.php