New insights into how sleep helps the brain to reorganise itself

October 2, 2017, University of Surrey
brain
Credit: public domain

A study has given new insights into how sleep contributes to brain plasticity – the ability for our brain to change and reorganise itself – and could pave the way for new ways to help people with learning and memory disorders.

Researchers at the Humboldt and Charité Universities in Berlin, led by Dr Julie Seibt from the University of Surrey, used cutting edge techniques to record activity in a particular region of that is responsible for holding new information – the dendrites.

The study, published in Nature Communications, found that activity in dendrites increases when we sleep, and that this increase is linked to specific waves that are seen to be key to how we form memories.

Dr Julie Seibt, lecturer in Sleep and Plasticity at the University of Surrey and lead author of the study, said: "Our brains are amazing and fascinating organs – they have the ability to change and adapt based on our experiences. It is becoming increasingly clear that sleep plays an important role in these adaptive changes. Our study tells us that a large proportion of these changes may occur during very short and repetitive brain waves called spindles.

"Sleep spindles have been associated with memory formation in humans for quite some time but nobody knew what they were actually doing in the brain. Now we know that during spindles, specific pathways are activated in dendrites, maybe allowing our memories to be reinforced during sleep.

"In the near future, techniques that allow brain stimulation, such as (TMS), could be used to stimulate dendrites with the same frequency range as spindles. This could lead to enhance cognitive functions in patients with learning and , such as dementia."

Explore further: No dream: Electric brain stimulation during sleep can boost memory

More information: Julie Seibt et al. Cortical dendritic activity correlates with spindle-rich oscillations during sleep in rodents, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00735-w

Related Stories

No dream: Electric brain stimulation during sleep can boost memory

July 28, 2016
When you sleep, your brain is busy storing and consolidating things you learned that day, stuff you'll need in your memory toolkit tomorrow, next week, or next year. For many people, especially those with neurological conditions, ...

'Princess Leia' brainwaves help sleeping brain store memories

November 15, 2016
Every night while you sleep, electrical waves of brain activity circle around each side of your brain, tracing a pattern that, were it on the surface of your head, might look like the twin hair buns of Star Wars' Princess ...

Brain waves control the impact of noise on sleep

September 6, 2011
During sleep, our perception of the environment decreases. However the extent to which the human brain responds to surrounding noises during sleep remains unclear. In a study published this week in Proceedings of the National ...

Brain consolidates memory with three-step brainwave

September 22, 2015
Our long-term memory is consolidated when we sleep. Short-term memory traces in the hippocampus, an area deep in the brain, are then relocated to more outer parts of the brain. An international team of neuroscientists, among ...

Controlling memory by triggering specific brain waves during sleep

July 6, 2017
Have you ever tried to recall something just before going to sleep and then wake up with the memory fresh in your mind? While we absorb so much information during the day consciously or unconsciously, it is during shut eye ...

Finding traces of memory processing during sleep

May 17, 2017
Sleep helps us to retain the information that we have learned during the day. We know from animal experiments that new memories are reactivated during sleep. The brain replays previous experience while we sleep – and this ...

Recommended for you

A peek into the interplay between sleep and wakefulness

July 20, 2018
Sleep is an autonomic process and is not always under our direct, voluntary control. Awake or asleep, we are basically under the regulation of two biological processes: sleep homeostasis, commonly known as 'sleep pressure', ...

Paralyzed mice with spinal cord injury made to walk again

July 19, 2018
Most people with spinal cord injury are paralyzed from the injury site down, even when the cord isn't completely severed. Why don't the spared portions of the spinal cord keep working? Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Neural inflammation plays critical role in stress-induced depression

July 19, 2018
A group of Japanese researchers has discovered that neural inflammation caused by the innate immune system plays an unexpectedly important role in stress-induced depression. This insight could potentially lead to the development ...

Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production and survival of myelin-forming cells

July 19, 2018
The nervous system is a complex organ that relies on a variety of biological players to ensure daily function of the human body. Myelin—a membrane produced by specialized glial cells—plays a critical role in protecting ...

Understanding the neuroscience of binge drinking

July 19, 2018
A new study from researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center found that binge drinking impairs working memory in the adolescent brain. The study, in mice, explains why teenagers who binge drink are 15 times more ...

Neurons can carry more than one signal at a time

July 18, 2018
Back in the early days of telecommunications, engineers devised a clever way to send multiple telephone calls through a single wire at the same time. Called time-division multiplexing, this technique rapidly switches between ...

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.