In the News: Sleep on it

According to new research presented recently at FENS, the Forum of European Neuroscience meeting in Geneva, Switzerland ‘Sleep on it’ really is good advice.


Sleep experts have confirmed what many of us already probably know that a good night’s sleep can have a dramatic impact on the way the brain functions the next day and that memory in particular is boosted by sleep. It seems that sleep strengthens the connections between communicating nerve cells in the brain – a process thought to form the basis of learning and memory.


Scientists in Switzerland studied a group of volunteers who were taught a new skill or shown images they would later have to remember. The skill tasks included trying to follow a moving dot on a computer screen using a joy stick. One group of participants was then allowed to sleep normally for eight hours, while others were deprived of sleep or only permitted a nap. The next day they were asked to repeat the tasks or recall the images while their brains were scanned using a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Those who had slept properly performed better, and this was reflected in their brain activity.


The results of this study prove that a period of sleep following a new experience can consolidate and improve subsequent effects of learning from the experience the next day.

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