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Sleep: A Memory Booster?

What’s going on in the brain while we sleep? A lot! Specif­i­cal­ly, process­es sup­port­ing the con­sol­i­da­tion of mem­o­ries. This Dana Foun­da­tion arti­cle reviews fas­ci­nat­ing stud­ies in which mem­o­ries are reac­ti­vat­ed dur­ing sleep thanks to either an odor or an audi­to­ry cue. Results sug­gest that such reac­ti­va­tion leads to bet­ter mem­o­ry:

reac­ti­va­tion dur­ing slow-wave sleep sup­ports the trans­fer of the mem­o­ry rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the hip­pocam­pus to long-term stor­age in the neo­cor­tex, and also strength­ens it

one pos­si­ble appli­ca­tion of such find­ings could be to over­write unwant­ed trau­mat­ic mem­o­ries

anoth­er appli­ca­tion would be to use the deep-sleep reac­ti­va­tion to enhance mem­o­ries in stu­dents, or in elder­ly peo­ple Read the rest of this entry »

How Well a Baby Sleeps Affects the Development of Key Brain Functions

Both chil­dren and adults need a good night sleep to func­tion at their best. A recent study, sum­ma­rized here, sug­gests that this is true for babies too: How much sleep a 12 month old baby gets can influ­ence the devel­op­ment of his/her exec­u­tive func­tions. Exec­u­tive func­tions, sup­port­ed by the frontal lobes of the brain, are often con­sid­ered as indi­ca­tors of children’s like­li­hood of suc­ceed­ing in school. They involve deci­sion-mak­ing, prob­lem-solv­ing, plan­ning, inhibit­ing, as well as oth­er high-lev­el func­tions (social behav­ior, emo­tional con­trol, work­ing mem­ory, etc.). Read the rest of this entry »

Sleep, Tetris, Memory and the Brain

As part of our ongo­ing Author Speaks Series, we are hon­ored to present today this excel­lent arti­cle by Dr. Shan­non Mof­fett, based on her illu­mi­nat­ing and engag­ing book. Enjoy!

(and please go to sleep soon if you are read­ing this late Mon­day night).
————

Two years ago I fin­ished a book on the mind/brain, called The Three Pound Enig­ma: The Human Brain and the Quest to Unlock its Mys­ter­iesShannon Moffett-Three Pound Enigma . Each chap­ter pro­files a leader in a dif­fer­ent aspect of mind/brain research, from neu­ro­surgery to zen Bud­dhism, from cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science to phi­los­o­phy of mind. One of my sub­jects was Dr. Robert Stick­gold, a zany, hyper-intel­li­gent men­sch of a Har­vard sleep researcher. When I met him, I was in med­ical school and hav­ing a grand old time—I’d exact­ed an exten­sion of my tenure beyond the cus­tom­ary four years, so I had enough time to write the book, do my course­work, and have a life. I was busy, but still got enough sleep, had time to exer­cise dai­ly, and even went for din­ner and a movie some­times. Although I found Stickgold’s work inter­est­ing, there was a part of me that just didn’t get it.

Fast-for­ward to the present, when I am a res­i­dent in emer­gency med­i­cine at a busy inner-city trau­ma cen­ter; I have two-year-old twins and a hus­band with a 60-hour-a-week job of his own. I do not exer­cise. I do not eat unless I can do some­thing else pro­duc­tive at the same time, and even when I do get to sleep in my own bed, my slum­ber is frac­tured by the awak­en­ings of two cir­ca­di­an­ly dis­parate tod­dlers. It seems to take me twice as long to “get” new con­cepts as it used to, and I nev­er feel like I’m func­tion­ing at top speed. In short, I am a mess. And NOW I get what Stickgold’s work is all about, and under­stand that he is both quan­ti­fy­ing and explain­ing exact­ly what I’m feel­ing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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