Findings reveal brain mechanisms at work during sleep

October 16, 2012

New findings presented today report the important role sleep plays, and the brain mechanisms at work as sleep shapes memory, learning, and behavior. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

One in five American adults show signs of , making the condition a widespread public health problem. Sleeplessness is related to health issues such as obesity, cardiovascular problems, and memory problems.

Today's findings show that:

  • Sleepiness disrupts the coordinated activity of an important network of ; the impaired function of this network is also implicated in Alzheimer's disease (Andrew Ward, abstract 909.05, see attached summary).
  • Sleeplessness plays havoc with communication between the hippocampus, which is vital for memory, and the brain's "default mode network;" the changes may weaken event recollection (Hengyi Rao, PhD, abstract 626.08, see attached summary).
  • In a mouse model, fearful memories can be intentionally weakened during sleep, indicating new possibilities for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (Asya Rolls, abstract 807.06, see attached summary).
  • Loss of less than half a night's sleep can impair memory and alter the normal behavior of (Ted Abel, PhD, abstract 807.13, see attached summary).
Other recent findings discussed show:
  • How sleep enables the remodeling of memories—including the weakening of irrelevant memories—and the coherent integration of old and new information (Gina Poe, PhD, see attached speaker's summary).
  • The common logic behind seemingly contradictory theories of how sleep remodels synapses, aiding cognition and (Giulio Tononi, MD, PhD, see attached speaker's summary).
"As these research findings show, we cannot underestimate the importance of a good night's sleep," said press conference moderator Clifford Saper, PhD, MD, from the Harvard Medical School, an expert on sleep and its deprivation. "Brain imaging and behavioral studies are illuminating the brain pathways that are blocked or contorted by sleep deprivation, and the risks this poses to learning, memory, and mental health."

Explore further: Studies report early childhood trauma takes visible toll on brain

Related Stories

Studies report early childhood trauma takes visible toll on brain

October 16, 2012
Trauma in infancy and childhood shapes the brain, learning, and behavior, and fuels changes that can last a lifetime, according to new human and animal research released today. The studies delve into the effects of early ...

New research reveals more about how the brain processes facial expressions and emotions

October 15, 2012
Research released today helps reveal how human and primate brains process and interpret facial expressions, and the role of facial mimicry in everything from deciphering an unclear smile to establishing relationships of power ...

New tools for Alzheimer's may aid early diagnosis and treatment

October 15, 2012
Curtailing the imminent rise in Alzheimer's disease (AD) will require early, accurate diagnostic tests and treatments, and researchers are closer to achieving these two goals. New findings in medical imaging, molecular analysis ...

Developing brain is source of stability and instability in adolescence

October 15, 2012
The brain's "reward system," those brain circuits and structures that mediate the experience and pursuit of pleasure, figured prominently in several studies. The studies shed light on adolescents' ability to control impulsivity ...

Recommended for you

Contact in sports may lead to differences in the brains of young, healthy athletes

August 22, 2017
People who play contact sports show changes to their brain structure and function, with sports that have greater risk of body contact showing greater effects on the brain, a new study has found.

Research reveals 'exquisite selectivity' of neuronal wiring in the cerebral cortex

August 21, 2017
The brain's astonishing anatomical complexity has been appreciated for over 100 years, when pioneers first trained microscopes on the profusion of branching structures that connect individual neurons. Even in the tiniest ...

Afternoon slump in reward response

August 21, 2017
Activation of a reward-processing brain region peaks in the morning and evening and dips at 2 p.m., finds a study of healthy young men published in The Journal of Neuroscience. This finding may parallel the drop in alertness ...

Researchers find monkey brain structure that decides if viewed objects are new or unidentified

August 18, 2017
A team of researchers working at the University of Tokyo School of Medicine has found what they believe is the part of the monkey brain that decides if something that is being viewed is recognizable. In their paper published ...

Artificial neural networks decode brain activity during performed and imagined movements

August 18, 2017
Artificial intelligence has far outpaced human intelligence in certain tasks. Several groups from the Freiburg excellence cluster BrainLinks-BrainTools led by neuroscientist private lecturer Dr. Tonio Ball are showing how ...

Study of nervous system cells can help to understand degenerative diseases

August 18, 2017
The results of a new study show that many of the genes expressed by microglia differ between humans and mice, which are frequently used as animal models in research on Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.