Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sleep & Long-Term Memory: A “Sharp” Discovery

Researchers report that they have discovered how sleep plays a role in memory consolidation.

The process involves “sharp wave ripples.” These are short, intense, compressed oscillations in the brain; they occur during the sleep stage of slow-wave sleep.

The research team suggests that these events are responsible for consolidating memory. The sharp wave ripples transfer learned information to the brain region where long-term memories are stored.

“This specific brain pattern is the cause behind long-term memory formation,” study co-author György Buzsáki said in a Rutgers
news release.

Buzsáki explained that the sharp wave ripples “teach” the brain to form a long-term memory. The ripples occur hundreds to thousands of times during sleep; this helps explain how a momentary event can be ingrained in the memory for a lifetime.

The finding may aid the development of effective treatments for memory disorders.

Learn more about sleep and memory.

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