A recent study published in The Journal of Neuroscience shows the importance of a good night’s sleep in memory evaluation and retention.
The research was undertaken by Jan Born, PhD, of the University of Lübeck in Germany and the specific goal of the research was to determine how the brain determines and evaluates daily information inputs to determine what should be retained and what can be discarded.
“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 also indicate that information relevant for future demands is selected foremost for storage.”
The research involved a total of 191 volunteers. One group were asked to learn 40 pairs of words and another played a card game where they matched pictures of animals and objects (similar to the game Concentration) and also practiced sequences of finger taps.
Half the volunteers were told they would be tested for recall ten hours after their tasks. Some of these volunteers were also allowed to sleep between their learning and testing.
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.
EEG tests were performed on those volunteers who knew they were to be tested and were allowed to sleep. The EEG results showed an increased of neural activity during slow wave sleep
“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 that 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, PhD, 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).”Trackback URL