Despite abnormalities after concussion, sleep continues to aid memory and recall

June 4, 2015, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Supporting opportunities to sleep following a concussion may be an important factor in recovery from cognitive impairments, UMass Amherst sleep researcher suggest. Credit: UMass AMherst

After a concussion, a person can be left with disturbed sleep, memory deficits and other cognitive problems for years, but a new study led by Rebecca Spencer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests that despite these abnormalities, sleep still helps them to overcome memory deficits, and the benefit is equivalent to that seen in individuals without a history of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), also known as concussion.

Spencer, with graduate student Janna Mantua and undergraduates Keenan Mahan and Owen Henry, found that individuals who had sustained a mild TBI more than a year earlier had greater recall in a word memorization task after they had slept than when tested after an equal period awake. They report that this is the first study to look at sleep-dependent consolidation in people with TBI history.

Spencer says, "It is interesting to note that despite having atypical or disturbed sleep architecture, people in our study had intact sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Supporting opportunities to sleep following a concussion may be an important factor in recovery from cognitive impairments. The changes in sleep architecture we observed are in an optimal direction, that is, more rich, and less light or Stage 1 sleep, is a shift in the positive direction."

Specifically, data from participants who had a concussion more than one year before had differences in sleep as measured by polysomnography, a montage of recordings used to stage sleep. They spent a significantly greater part of the night in deep, slow-wave sleep, a sleep stage where memories are replayed and consolidated to long-term storage. Their memory and recall ability was not significantly different than the study subjects who had no TBI.

The authors write, "Overall, sleep composition is altered following TBI but such deficits do not yield insufficiencies in sleep-dependent ."

For this work, the researchers recruited 26 young adults 18 to 22 years old with a history of diagnosed TBI an average three to four years earlier from various causes, and 30 others with no history of . All slept more than six hours per night, took few naps, drank moderate amounts of coffee and alcohol and had no neurological disorders other than participants who had had TBI.

Participants learned a list of word pairs and their memory for them was assessed 12 hours later. Half in each group learned the word pairs in the morning and memory was tested in the evening, while half were tested in the evening and their memory was tested in the morning after sleep.

Sleep stages were identified by polysomnography, attaching a set of electrodes to the head for physiological recordings during sleep. While slow wave sleep was greater in those with a TBI they also had less non-REM stage 1 sleep, a form of very light sleep seen during the wake-to-sleep transition. This suggests that those with a concussion history can reach sooner and get more of it.

For both those with a history of concussion and those without, recall was better following than daytime wake. Spencer says, "We know this is not just a matter of the time of day we tested them at as they were able to learn equally regardless of whether we taught them the task in the morning or the evening."

Explore further: How sleep helps us learn and memorize

More information: Study paper: journal.frontiersin.org/articl … .2015.00328/abstract

Related Stories

How sleep helps us learn and memorize

May 28, 2015
Sleep is important for long lasting memories, particularly during this exam season. Research publishing in PLOS Computational Biology suggests that sleeping triggers the synapses in our brain to both strengthen and weaken, ...

Sufficient sleep is important for healthy sexual desire

March 16, 2015
In a study of 171 women, those who obtained more sleep on a given night experienced greater sexual desire the next day. Reflecting sleep's impact on sexual desire, each additional hour of sleep increased the likelihood of ...

Disruption of sleep in children could hamper memory processes

April 15, 2015
Sleep disordered breathing can hamper memory processes in children, according to a new study.

Bright light therapy may improve sleep and promote recovery in patients with mild TBI

May 31, 2013
A new study suggests that bright light therapy may improve sleep, cognition, emotion and brain function following mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Sleep tight and stay bright? 'Investing' in sleep may help later in life

January 22, 2015
Sound sleep in young and middle-aged people helps memory and learning, but as they hit their seventh, eighth and ninth decades, they don't sleep as much or as well—and sleep is no longer linked so much to memory, a Baylor ...

Heavy snoring, sleep apnea may signal earlier memory and thinking decline

April 15, 2015
Heavy snoring and sleep apnea may be linked to memory and thinking decline at an earlier age, according to a new study published in the April 15, 2015, online issue of Neurology. The research also suggests that treating the ...

Recommended for you

Mechanisms of harmful overhydration and brain swelling

May 22, 2018
We are all familiar with the drawbacks of dehydration, but we rarely hear about the harmful effects of overhydration. For one, excess fluid accumulation can lead to dangerously low sodium levels in the blood or hyponatremia—a ...

Mice brain structure linked with sex-based differences in anxiety behavior

May 22, 2018
Using male individuals has long been a tradition in scientific mice studies. But new research enforces the importance of using a balanced population of male and female mice.

Cell types underlying schizophrenia identified

May 22, 2018
Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and University of North Carolina have identified the cell types underlying schizophrenia in a new study published in Nature Genetics. The findings offer a roadmap for the development ...

In brain stimulation therapy less might be more

May 22, 2018
One of the promising non-invasive brain therapeutic methods is the repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). During such a procedure, a magnetic coil is placed near the head of the patient and a magnetic pulse ...

Subtle hearing loss while young changes brain function, study finds

May 22, 2018
Cranking up your headphones or scrambling for a front-row spot at rock shows could be damaging more than your hearing.

What helps form long-term memory also drives the development of neurodegenerative disease

May 22, 2018
Scientists have just discovered that a small region of a cellular protein that helps long-term memories form also drives the neurodegeneration seen in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). This small part of the Ataxin-2 protein ...

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.