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Study strengthens sleep memory link

25-02-2010

New research into early brain development may shed further light on the importance of sleep for forming memory, as well as the wider reasons why we sleep and why sleep deprivation is so harmful. A team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, led by associate professor of Neuroscience Marcos Frank PhD, looked at animal neural connections and how they reacted when subjects were asleep and awake.

The investigation revealed that cellular changes documented in the brain during sleep were directly linked to developing memory, suggesting that the brain is physically more capable of memory processes when asleep, with what was described as a “switch being thrown, making everything that’s necessary… for the basis of memory formation” taking place.

“This is the first real direct insight into how the brain, on a cellular level, changes the strength of its connections during sleep,” said Dr. Frank. “As soon as the animal had a chance to sleep, we saw all the machinery of memory start to engage.”

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