Sleep’s role in forming lasting memory has been discovered by a team of scientists in China and the US.
Scientists have discovered how a good night’s sleep is crucial to learning and forming new lasting memories.
Do you get enough sleep?
Sleep creates memory and learning
A team of scientists in China and the US have discovered that a good night’s sleep is vital for your memory and learning. Using advanced microscopy they witnessed how brain cells formed connections – synapses – whilst sleeping. These synapses play a crucial role in creating lasting memories, which will improve your learning process.
Although it is commonly known that sleep plays an important role in memory, what actually happens inside the brain remained a mystery.
Teaching mice new skills
Researchers at Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School and New York University School of Medicine taught mice a new skill – to walk on top of a rotating rod.
With a microscope they were able to look inside the brain and see the difference between sleeping mice and sleep deprived mice.
They found that sleeping mice formed more connections between neurons, in other words, they were learning more. Whilst sleeping the brain was able to “replay” that days activity, or teaching material.
“We thought sleep helped, but it could have been other causes, and we show it really helps to make connections and that in sleep the brain is not quiet, it is replaying what happened during the day.”
Prof Wen-Biao Gan.
Sleepers perform better
One of the main implications of the research is for students: Do not cram through the night! It is better to study and have a good night’s sleep than to cram it all in during a sleepless night, as it won’t stay for long in your brain.