Give it time, and sleep

Apr 17, 2007

Researchers at McGill University and Harvard Medical School have established a direct link between sleep and improved relational memory function. Their study is published today in the April 16 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Sleep clearly has a favourable effect on human relational memory — the memory that allows us to draw connections between facts and events," explains Professor Debra Titone, Associate Professor of Psychology at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Language and Memory.

The study's fifty-six subjects were shown five pairs of abstract patterns that had a hierarchy that was unfamiliar to them. They then learned that some patterns were correct and some were incorrect. After a period of study, the subjects were tested in three groups for their understanding of the hierarchies of the pairs of patterns and for their inferential abilities. The first group was tested after a 20 minute-long rest, the second after 12 hours, with or without sleep, and the third was tested 24 hours later.

The results showed that after a learning period, memory continues to process information during periods of sleep, which allows the brain to associate new memories with one another. "It's like making a soup," said psychology Professor Matthew Walker, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at Harvard Medical School. "Just putting all the ingredients in a pot won't do it, they have to be left to marinate and cook together. After many hours, particularly after sleeping, the brain can consolidate the elements of individual memories in the same storage space."

Source: McGill University

Explore further: The dopamine transporter: Researchers study a common link between addiction and neurological disease

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Medical advances turn science fiction into science fact

28 minutes ago

Exoskeletons helping the paralysed to walk, tiny maggot-inspired devices gnawing at brain tumours, machines working tirelessly as hospital helpers: in many respects, the future of medicine is already here.

Mexico reports first litter of wolf cubs in the wild

50 minutes ago

The first known litter of Mexican gray wolves has been born in the wild as part of a three-year effort to re-introduce the subspecies to a habitat where it disappeared three decades ago, Mexican officials reported Thursday.

Getting a grip on robotic grasp

1 hour ago

Twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap, and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single-handedly. Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand—or rather, ...

Recommended for you

Scientists image a beating heart in 3D (w/ Video)

1 hour ago

Researchers of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden report how they managed to capture detailed three-dimensional images of cardiac dynamics in zebrafish. The novel approach: ...

New device to monitor lung function in space

2 hours ago

A new method of collecting blood from the ear, currently part of an interactive exhibition at the Science Museum, could be used to monitor lung function in space. Less invasive, faster and more accurate than current methods, ...

Primate research center plays key role in HIV study in Nature

2 hours ago

In a study reported in Nature this month, Yerkes National Primate Research Center researchers were key in determining that treating SIV-infected rhesus macaques with type 1 interferon, a protein known to trigger antiviral respon ...

Three-people IVF debate process on the move in UK

4 hours ago

Takes two to make a child, correct? No. maybe. The use of sperm and eggs from three people to create babies moved a step closer in the UK, with Tuesday's events. What kind of egg-sperm distribution are we talking about? The ...

User comments : 0