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Sleep Reinforces Memory

New research suggests sleep not only protects memories from outside interferences, but also helps strengthen memory recall. The findings provide insight into the cognitive benefits of sleep leading experts to wonder if sleep disorders may play a role in memory problems associated with dementia.

Forty-eight people between the ages of 18 and 30 took part in the study. All had normal, healthy sleep routines and were not taking any medications.

Participants were divided evenly into four groups—a wake group without interference, a wake group with interference, a sleep group without interference and a sleep group with interference. All groups were taught the same 20 pairs of words in the initial training session.

The study looked at memory recall with and without interference (competing information). The wake groups were taught the word pairings at 9 a.m. and then tested on them at 9 p.m. after 12 hours awake. The sleep groups were taught the word pairs at 9 p.m. and tested on them at 9 a.m. after a night of sleep.

Just prior to testing, the interference groups were given a second list of word pairs to remember. The first word in each pair was the same on both lists, but the second word was different, testing the brain’s ability to handle competing information, known as interference. The interference groups were then tested on both lists.

The study found that people who slept after learning the information performed best, successfully recalling more words. Those in the sleep group without interference were able to recall 12 percent more word pairings from the first list than the wake group without interference. With interference, the recall rate was 44 percent higher for the sleep group.

“This is the first study to show that sleep protects memories from interference,” said study author Jeffrey Ellenbogen, MD, with Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.

“These results provide important insights into how the sleeping brain interacts with memories: it appears to strengthen them. Perhaps, then, sleep disorders might worsen memory problems seen in dementia.”

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Sleep Reinforces 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 Reinforces Memory. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2007/04/25/779/779.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.