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.