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Sleep & Memory

April 6, 2009

Different stages of sleep may play separate, crucial roles in memory formation.


How sleep may store information. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A particular stage of sleep may transfer new memories to long term storage. This according to Cal Tech neuroscientists Thanos Siapas, Casimir Wierzynski, and their colleagues. Wierzynski says they studied brain activity in two areas: the hippocampus, which helps form new memories, and the neocortex, which stores long-term memories. During a phase called slow-wave sleep, bursts of activity in the hippocampus were followed immediately by bursts in the neocortex.

CASIMIR WIERZYNSKI (California Institute of Technology):
Which is consistent with the idea of information traveling from the one brain structure to the other.

This didn’t happen in REM sleep, which has been linked to memory consolidation and dreaming. The findings suggest that slow-wave sleep may play a unique and vital role in making memories permanent. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.