Forgot How Something Felt? Sleep To Remember

Researchers have discovered that a good night’s sleep improves our ability to remember what we learned during the day.

AsianScientist (May 30, 2016) – A good night’s sleep improves our ability to remember what we learned during the day, say researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan, who have discovered a brain circuit that governs how we form touch-based memories during sleep.

Based on knowledge gained from their recent study on touch perception, a team led by Masanori Murayama of the Behavioral Neurophysiology Lab reasoned that signaling within a neural circuit from higher level motor-related brain regions back to lower level touch-related sensory area might also consolidate the memory of textures.

“There is a long standing hypothesis that top-down input is crucial for memory consolidation and that during sleep, neurons in sensory regions activated during the initial experience can ‘reactivate’ by unknown pathways. We found such reactivation of the top-down pathway is critical for mice to encode memories of their tactile experiences,” Murayama said.

To investigate their hypothesis, the researchers developed a task to assess memory retention that relies on the mice’s inclination to spend more time investigating new items in their environment. By altering top-down inputs in the mice brains during sleep, they were able to show that this pathway was responsible for touch-related memory consolidation during sleep.

“Our findings on sleep deprivation are particularly interesting from a clinical perspective,” said Murayama.

“Patients who suffer from sleep disorders often have impaired memory functions. Our findings suggest a route to therapy using transcortical magnetic or direct-current stimulation to top down cortical pathways to reactivate sleep-deprived neurons during non-REM sleep. Our next step is to test this in mouse models of sleep-disorders.”

The article can be found at: Miyamoto et al. (2016) Top-down cortical input during NREM sleep consolidates perceptual memory.


Source: RIKEN; Photo: Shutterstock.
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