Strengthen Memory While You Sleep
Sleep May Be Prime Time for the Brain to Consolidate Memories
WebMD News Archive
April 24, 2007 -- While you sleep, your brain may strengthen the memories
you made during the day.
That's according to a study due to be presented on May 2 in Boston at the
American Academy of Neurology's 59th annual meeting.
The researchers -- who included Jeffrey Ellenbogen, MD, a neurologist and
fellow in sleep research at Harvard Medical School -- studied 48 healthy adults
Ellenbogen's team split participants into four groups. Participants in all
four groups memorized word pairs.
One group was tested on the word pairs at the end of the day. Another group
took the same test the following morning, after sleeping at home. Their test
scores were similar.
Distracting the Mind
The remaining two groups got an extra challenge. Right before the test, they
saw another set of word pairs that was very similar to the word pairs they had
Those participants were tested on both sets of word pairs. The point was to
see whether their memory was distracted by the new set of word pairs.
The students who slept at home before the tests performed best. They
correctly identified about three-quarters of the word pairs.
In comparison, the students who took the test before going home for the
evening correctly identified about one-third of the word pairs.
"This is the first study to show that sleep protects memories from
interference," Ellenbogen says in an American Academy of Neurology news
"These results provide important insights into how the sleeping brain
interacts with memories: It appears to strengthen them," he says.
"Perhaps, then, sleep disorders might worsen memory problems seen in
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