A discovery by German scientists may revolutionize the way students, actors and anyone who needs to improve their memory go about their preparation.
Scientists discovered that interleukin-6 helps the brain retain emotional and procedural memories during REM sleep when it is administered through the nose.
The molecule previously had been considered a byproduct of inflammation, not an agent that affects cognition.
“Sleep to remember, a dream or reality?” said Lisa Marshall, co-author of the study, from the Department of Neuroendocrinology at the University of Lubeck in Germany.
“Here, we provide the first evidence that the immunoregulatory signal interleukin-6 plays a beneficial role in sleep-dependent formation of long-term memory in humans.”
To make this discovery, Marshall and colleagues had 17 healthy young men spend two nights in the laboratory. On each night after reading either an emotional or neutral short story, they sprayed a fluid into their nostrils which contained either interleukin-6 or a placebo fluid.
The subsequent sleep and brain electric activity was monitored throughout the night. The next morning subjects wrote down as many words as they could remember from each of the two stories. Those who received the dose of IL-6 could remember more words.
The research is reported as the cover story of the October 2009 print issue of The FASEB Journal.