Adequate sleep is essential for memory consolidation

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Adequate sleep is essential for memory consolidation
Adequate sleep is essential for memory consolidation

A lot of students who think they can improve their grades on exams by pulling all-nighters find out this does not work. Brandeis University reported, on why all-nighters simply don’t work. If a student really wants to ace tomorrow’s exam there will be a better chance of doing so if the coffee is put aside and the student gets a good nights sleep.

It has long been known by scientists that sleep, memory and learning are very deeply associated with each other. It has been found that most animals including the spectrum from flies to people have trouble remembering things when they are deprived of sleep. Research has shown that sleep is critical for the conversion of short-term into long-term memory. This is a process which is known as memory consolidation.

Graduate students Paula Haynes and Bethany Christmann in the Griffith Lab have made a case for the assumption that memory neurons are actually putting us to sleep. They have focused their research on dorsal paired medial (DPM) neurons, which are well-known memory consolidators in Drosophila flies. These researchers observed for the first time when there is activation of DPM neurons the flies slept more. And when there was deactivation of DPM neurons the flies kept buzzing around.

What appears to be going on is these memory consolidators actually inhibit wakefulness as they begin converting short-term memory to long-term memory. This occurs in a section of the Drosophila brain which is called the mushroom body. This part of the Drosophila brain is similar to the hippocampus where memories are stored in people. The researchers say the parts of the mushroom body which are responsible for memory and learning also help to keep the Drosophila awake.

This study has been published in the journal eLife. It has been known that sleep promotes memory consolidation in people and many other animals. However, the physiological and anatomical associations between sleep and memory have not been clear. Researchers have now shown that the dorsal paired medial (DPM) neurons, which are needed for memory consolidation in Drosophila, are sleep-promoting inhibitory neurons. An understanding how sleep and memory are associated in a simple system, like Drosophila, can help scientists to unravel the secrets how sleep and memory are regulated in the brains of people.

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