Sleep Boosts Our Memory And Even Helps Us Learn

First Posted: May 28, 2015 05:29 PM EDT

We need sleep, even though most of us aren't quite getting enough.

New findings published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology demonstrate just how important sleep really is. It triggers synapses in our brains that strengthen and weaken, which prompt the forgetting, strengthening or modification of our memories, otherwise known as long-term potentiation (LTP).

Lead study author Sidarta Ribeiro of the Brain Institute of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, measured the levels of a protein related to LTP during the sleep cycle of rats. Then, the study authors used the data to build models of sleep-dependent synaptic plasticity, according to a news release.

Findings revealed that sleep can result in completely different effects depending on whether LTP is present or not. For instance, a lack of LTP may cause us to forget, erasing memories. However, the presence of LTP may strengthen our memory, prompting the emergence of new ones.

The study sheds light on empirical and theoretical framework in better understanding the mechanisms of the complex role of sleep for learning, particularly involving complex memory.

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