Brain activity patterns during sleep consolidate memory

February 19, 2016
Brain activity patterns during sleep consolidate memory

Why does sleeping on it help? This is the question tackled by new research at the University of Bristol, which reveals how brain activity during sleep sorts through the huge number of experiences we encounter every day, filing only the important information in memory.

The new discoveries, made by researchers from Bristol's Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, provide further evidence for the benefits of a good night's sleep.  This is important because the bad nights of sleep often experienced by both the healthy population, and people with schizophrenia or Alzheimer's disease, lead to impaired mental function.

The findings, published today in the journal Cell Reports,and put into context in an article in Trends in Neuroscience, show that patterns of that occur during the day are replayed at fast-forward speed during sleep.

This replayed activity happens in part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is our central filing system for memories.  The key new finding is that sleep replay strengthens the microscopic connections between nerve cells that are active – a process deemed critical for consolidating memories. Therefore, by selecting which daytime activity patterns are replayed, sleep can sort and retain important information. 

Lead researcher Dr Jack Mellor, from the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, said: 'These findings are about the fundamental processes that occur in the brain during the consolidation of memory during sleep. It also seems that the successful replay of brain activity during is dependent on the emotional state of the person when they are learning. This has major implications for how we teach and enable people to learn effectively.'

Explore further: Memory accuracy and strength can be manipulated during sleep

More information: Sharp-Wave Ripples Orchestrate the Induction of Synaptic Plasticity during Reactivation of Place Cell Firing Patterns in the Hippocampus. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2016.01.061

Laura A. Atherton et al. Memory trace replay: the shaping of memory consolidation by neuromodulation, Trends in Neurosciences (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.tins.2015.07.004

Keith G. Phillips et al. Decoupling of Sleep-Dependent Cortical and Hippocampal Interactions in a Neurodevelopmental Model of Schizophrenia, Neuron (2012). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.09.016

Related Stories

Memory accuracy and strength can be manipulated during sleep

April 8, 2014
The sense of smell might seem intuitive, almost something you take for granted. But researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center have found that memory of specific odors depends on the ability of the brain to learn, process ...

How reward and daytime sleep boost learning

October 16, 2015
A new study suggests that receiving rewards as you learn can help cement new facts and skills in your memory, particularly when combined with a daytime nap.

Lack of deep sleep may pave way for Alzheimer's, researchers say

January 18, 2016
Forget about needing beauty sleep. It's your brain that may suffer the most from a lack of deep shut eye.

Study unites neuroscience and psychology to paint more complete picture of sleep and memory

June 11, 2015
In Macbeth, Shakespeare describes sleep as "the death of each day's life," but he may have gotten it wrong. Sleep, as it turns out, may be the one thing that keeps our memories alive and intact.

How drugs can help your brain encode memories

January 14, 2016
Medical researchers at the University of Bristol have uncovered a fundamental mechanism that explains the interaction between brain state and the neural triggers responsible for learning. The discoveries, made by researchers ...

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, ...

Recommended for you

Small but distinct differences among species mark evolution of human brain

November 23, 2017
The most dramatic divergence between humans and other primates can be found in the brain, the primary organ that gives our species its identity.

Team constructs whole-brain map of electrical connections key to forming memories

November 22, 2017
A team of neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania has constructed the first whole-brain map of electrical connectivity in the brain based on data from nearly 300 neurosurgical patients with electrodes implanted ...

To forget or to remember? Memory depends on subtle brain signals, scientists find

November 22, 2017
The fragrance of hot pumpkin pie can bring back pleasant memories of holidays past, while the scent of an antiseptic hospital room may cause a shudder. The power of odors to activate memories both pleasing and aversive exists ...

Pitch imperfect? How the brain decodes pitch may improve cochlear implants

November 22, 2017
Picture yourself with a friend in a crowded restaurant. The din of other diners, the clattering of dishes, the muffled notes of background music, the voice of your friend, not to mention your own – all compete for your ...

New research suggests high-intensity exercise boosts memory

November 22, 2017
The health advantages of high-intensity exercise are widely known but new research from McMaster University points to another major benefit: better memory.

Schizophrenia originates early in pregnancy, 'mini-brain' research suggests

November 20, 2017
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually appear in adolescence or young adulthood, but new research reveals that the brain disease likely begins very early in development, toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. The ...

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.