December 21 2020

USING SLEEP TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY

Sleep improves memory

"It's best to think it over, then "sleep on it," say research psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis, when it comes to both remembering and implementing things on tomorrow's to-do list.

Before going to sleep, people who sleep after processing and storing a memory perform their plans much better than people who attempt to implement their strategy. The main finding is that studies have shown how sleep increases our ability to remember to do things in the future.

Researchers investigating the link between memory and sleep suggest that our capacity to carry out our goals is not so much a function of how deeply our minds have ingrained that purpose. Rather, the catalyst that helps to carry out our intentions is usually a location, situation or circumstance that triggers the recollection of a planned action experienced the next day.

Prospective recollection involves items such as remembering to take a prescription, buying a Mother's Day present, or taking home a birthday party ice cream. Though retrospective memory is dedicated to the vast majority of sleep literature in psychology, this research is the first foray into the relationship between sleep and prospective memory, the kind of memory we put to use every day. The results, researchers conclude, make major contributions to the understanding of the role of sleep in cognitively as well as memory.

Let's imagine that tomorrow, you intend to send a friend a letter. It would be a strong cue to see a friend the next day to remember to send the letter. But, at the time that the intention was coded by your brain, you're still vaguely aware of a place the two of you are going to meet the next day. And if you have not really thought directly about associating the place with the letter, the meaning of the place is weakly connected to the plan to send the message.

"We found that by strengthening the weak associations in the brain, sleep benefits prospective memory, and that has not been shown before,"

"One of the more provocative findings we have is that the link between the explicit cue, which is the person, and the intention was not strengthened by sleep, rather it strengthened the weak association and the intention,"

Researchers conclude that during slow wave sleep, an early pattern in the sleep cycle, the prospective memory mechanism includes coordination between the hippocampus and the cortical regions. In memory forming and reactivation, the hippocampus is very critical and the cortical regions are keys to preserving memories.

"We think that the hippocampus is reactivating these recently learned memories during slow wave sleep, taking them up and placing them in the brain in long-term storage regions,"

Source:
Gerry Everding
Washington University in St. Louis

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