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After learning sleep enhances memory

A brain lighting up from learning
A brain lighting up from learning

Learning is something which is vital to us all. We are often searching for answers to help us learn better for school and work to help us succeed better in life. Good nutrition always surfaces as being vitally important to the learning process since the brain needs good fuel to function well. New research shows sleep is also important for learning reports NYU Langone Medical Center on June 5, 2014.

Researchers have shown for the first time that sleep after learning nurtures the growth of dendritic spines. These are the tiny protrusions from brain cells which connect to other brain cells and facilitate the passage of information across synapses, which are the junctions at which brain cells meet. Furthermore, the activity of brain cells during deep sleep, or what is known as slow-wave sleep, after learning is vital for such growth.

These findings, from research in mice, offers important physical evidence which supports the hypothesis that sleep assists in consolidating and strengthening new memories. This research also shows for the first time how learning and sleep cause physical changes in the motor cortex, which is a region of the brain responsible for voluntary movements. Senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, PhD says we have been aware for a long time that sleep plays a significant role in learning and memory. When you don't sleep well you simply don't learn well. This research now gives us a better understanding of the underlying physical mechanism responsible for the phenomenon of learning.

This study has been published in the journal Science. In research on mice it has been observed that neurons which are activated during learning of a motor task are reactivated during subsequent non–rapid eye movement sleep. If this neuronal reactivation is disrupted branch-specific dendritic spine formation is prevented. It is indicated by these findings that sleep plays a key role in promoting learning-dependent synapse formation and maintenance on selected dendritic branches. This contributes to memory storage. So if you want to learn well to get ahead in life is it appears to be a good idea to add sleeping well to a nutritious diet.