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Study proves that memory forms during sleep

20-10-2009

New research has shown how the brain formulates long-term memory during deep sleep by identifying the cerebral activities responsible for process.

The study, led by Professor Gyorgy Buzsaki from Rutgers University, Newark, and a team of co-researchers from College de France in Paris, found that ‘sharp wave ripples’ transferred memory and learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex, the part of the brain that stores long-term memories. The investigation looked at rats that were trained in a spatial navigation task, then monitored their sleep. The team found that rats that had ‘ripple events’ eliminated by earlier electrical stimulation did not learn the tasks in the same way as other rats, who learned the work though memory.

The findings of the study could be used to further the treatment of memory disorders and related conditions.

“It’s as if many instruments and members of the orchestra come together to generate a loud sound, a sound so loud that it is heard by the neocortex,” said Professor Buzsaki, describing the activity during stage four (deep) sleep. “These sharp, ‘loud’ transient events occur hundreds to thousands of times during sleep and ‘teach’ the neo cortex to form a long-term form of the memory, a process referred to as memory consolidation.”

“This is the first example that if a well-defined pattern of activity in the brain is reliably and selectively eliminated, it results in memory deficit; a demonstration that this specific brain pattern is the cause behind long-term memory formation,” added Prof. Buzsaki.

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