Sleep and memory go together

Sleep and memory go together

Sleep and memory go together

Nowadays, it is a popular practice amongst young adults and adults alike to stay up all night studying or preparing for important examinations or presentations the next day.

The link between sleep and memory has already been well established. Scientists already know that sleep and memory go together. Most animals have trouble remembering information when sleep-deprived. Research shows that sleep helps convert short-term memory to long-term memory, a process that is called memory consolidation.

However, the details of memory consolidation have been unknown thus far.

Scientists may have finally found out how sleep and memory go together. The question they wanted to answer was whether the same process that promotes sleep is also responsible for memory consolidation, or if there are two separate processes at work. More specifically, is memory consolidated during sleep because of low brain activity, allowing memory neurons to work, or do the memory neurons actually make us sleep?

Researchers find that sleep and memory go together

Brandeis University graduate students Paula Haynes and Bethany Christmann believe that memory neurons make us sleep.

The students focused on neurons called dorsal paired medial (DPM) neurons, which are known to consolidate memory in fruit flies. They found that the flies slept more when DPM neurons were active. The flies also stayed awake more often when DPM neurons were deactivated, showing that sleep and memory go together.

These DPM neurons kept the flies asleep during the memory consolidation process. This all happens in a section of the fruit fly brain called the mushroom body. The mushroom body is similar to our hippocampus, where memories are stored. The parts of the mushroom body responsible for memory and learning also kept the flies awake.

It’s almost as if that section of the mushroom body were saying ‘hey, stay awake and learn this,'” says Christmann. “Then, after a while, the DPM neurons start signaling to suppress that section, as if to say ‘you’re going to need sleep if you want to remember this later.'”

Understanding how sleep and memory go together in animals can help unlock the secrets of the human brain.

“Knowing that sleep and memory overlap in the fly brain can allow researchers to narrow their search in humans,” Christmann says. “Eventually, it could help us figure out how sleep or memory is affected when things go wrong, as in the case of insomnia or memory disorders.”

The research showing that sleep and memory go together was published in eLIFE.

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1. “Why All-nighters Don’t Work.” ReAction. ReAction, 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2015.
2. “A Single Pair of Neurons Links Sleep to Memory Consolidation in Drosophila Melanogaster.” ELife. ELife, 7 Jan. 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.
3. “Why All-nighters Don’t Work: How Sleep, Memory Go Hand-in-hand.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.

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