A good night’s sleep improves learning and memory finds research
Scientists have discovered a mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory.
The team in China and the US used advanced microscopy to witness new connections between brain cells and synapses that form during sleep.
The study, published in the journal Science, showed that even intense training could not make up for people’s lost sleep.
Experts stated that it was an elegant and significant research that helped uncover the mechanisms of memory.
For years it has been known that sleep plays an important role in memory and learning but what actually happens inside the brain has been a source of considerable debate.
Several researchers at New York University School of Medicine and Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School trained mice to walk on top of a rotating rod. Thereafter, they looked inside the living brain with a microscope to see what happened when the animals were either sleeping or sleep deprived.
The results from their study showed that sleeping mice formed significantly more new connections between neurons and they were learning more than the sleep deprived mice.
By disrupting specific phases of sleep, the research group showed that deep or slow wave sleep was required for good memory formation. During both these stages, the brain was re-playing the activity from earlier in the day.
Prof Wen-Bio Gan, from New York University, told the BBC: “Finding out sleep promotes news connections between neurons is new and nobody knew about this before. This is just the latest piece of science to highlight the heavy importance of a good night’s sleep.”
Last year it was discovered that the brain uses sleep to wash away waste toxins that are built up during a hard day’s thinking.
Experts say, there are major concerns that people are not getting enough sleep.
As part of the BBC’s Day of the Body Clock, Prof Russell Foster warned: “Society had become supreme arrogant in ignoring the importance of sleep and this can lead to serious health problems, including cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infections and obesity.”