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Sleep Improves Memory

Researchers discover new evidence that sleep aids the brain’s capacity to remember information. In particular, the memories of recently learned word pairs are enhanced if sleep occurs between learning and testing. Interestingly, the memory benefit is strongest when memory is challenged by competing information.

The findings are reported in the July 12th issue of Current Biology by Jeffrey Ellenbogen, of Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues.

Whether sleep facilitates memory consolidation is a question as old as the experimental study of memory itself. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of experiments exploring this relationship. Although there is near-consensus that sleep promotes learning of certain types of perceptual memories (for example, learning to tap numeric sequences on a keyboard), there is ongoing debate about whether sleep benefits so-called declarative memory, a key type of memory that is based in the brain’s hippocampus.

In the new work, the researchers studied the influence of sleep on declarative memory in healthy, college-aged adults. The results demonstrated a robust effect: Compared to participants who did not sleep during the trials, those who slept between learning and testing were able to recall more of the original words they had learned earlier.

The beneficial influence of sleep was particularly marked when participants were presented with the challenge of “interference”–competing word-pair information–just prior to testing. A follow-up group further demonstrated that this sleep benefit for memory persists over the subsequent waking day.

This work clarifies and extends previous study of sleep and memory by demonstrating that sleep does not just passively and transiently protect memories; rather, sleep plays an active role in memory consolidation.

Source: Cell Press

Sleep Improves Memory

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Sleep Improves Memory. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2006/07/11/sleep-improves-memory/84.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.