The Complex Relationship Between Sleep and Memory
WASHINGTON, DC — Research released today reveals exciting new insights into the intricate relationship between sleep and memory, advancing understanding about how to protect the brain from problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation and traumatic brain injury, as well as suggesting potential methods for helping people to better learn how to use neuroprosthetic devices. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2014, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Increasing the production of a naturally occurring protein in mice enables the animals to retain spatial memory skills after being deprived of sleep, confirming that the brain pathway activated by that protein is a factor in memory problems associated with sleep loss (Jennifer Choi Tudor, PhD, abstract 291.07, see attached summary).
- Eating during what would normally be the “sleep” phase of the day causes memory problems in mice, even if the animals get enough sleep at another time of the day, a finding that may have implications for shift workers and others who experienced disrupted sleep patterns (Christopher Colwell, PhD, abstract 454.30, see attached summary).
- Two drugs restored function and reduced excessive sleepiness in brain-injured mice, perhaps by protecting the brain from inflammation, a dangerous after-effect of TBI (Rachel Rowe, PhD, abstract 608.04, see attached summary).
Other recent findings discussed show that:
- Triggering activity in the brain’s place cells during sleep can create “positive” artificial memories in mice that make the animals prefer a particular place in their environment, a finding that suggests complex forms of memory can be created during sleep (Karim Benchenane, PhD, presentation 559.04, see attached speaker summary).
- Neural processing that occurs during sleep enhances the ability of mice to control neuroprosthetics (computer-controlled devices designed to help restore lost motor function), a finding that may help people learn how to use such devices more effectively (Tanuj Gulati, PhD, presentation 177.03, see attached speaker summary).
“Sleep is essential to memory and brain function, but we are only beginning to understand the complex neurological mechanisms that are involved,” said press conference moderator Ravi Allada, MD, of Northwestern University, an expert on the neurobiology of sleep. “These latest discoveries are helping us to identify those mechanisms and to create new approaches to preserving and enhancing memory.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as private and philanthropic organizations. Find more information about sleep and memory at BrainFacts.org.