New insights into how sleep helps the brain to reorganise itself

October 2, 2017, University of Surrey
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

Brain's tiniest blood vessels trigger spinal motor neurons to develop

March 23, 2018
A new study has revealed that the human brain's tiniest blood vessels can activate genes known to trigger spinal motor neurons, prompting the neurons to grow during early development. The findings could provide insights into ...

How do we lose memory? A STEP at a time, researchers say

March 23, 2018
In mice, rats, monkeys, and people, aging can take its toll on cognitive function. A new study by researchers at Yale and Université de Montréal reveal there is a common denominator to the decline in all of these species—an ...

Being hungry shuts off perception of chronic pain

March 22, 2018
Pain can be valuable. Without it, we might let our hand linger on a hot stove, for example. But longer-lasting pain, such as the inflammatory pain that can arise after injury, can be debilitating and costly, preventing us ...

From signal propagation to consciousness: New findings point to a potential connection

March 22, 2018
Researchers at New York University have discovered a novel mechanism through which information can be effectively transmitted across many areas in the brain—a finding that offers a potentially new way of understanding how ...

Using simplicity for complexity—new research sheds light on the perception of motion

March 22, 2018
A team of biologists has deciphered how neurons used in the perception of motion form in the brain of a fly —a finding that illustrates how complex neuronal circuits are constructed from simple developmental rules.

Focus on early stage of illness may be key to treating ALS, study suggests

March 22, 2018
A new kind of genetically engineered mouse and an innovation in how to monitor those mice during research have shed new light on the early development of an inherited form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).


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.