Humans, and also many other animals, utilize sleep to consolidate spatial memories. Honeybees for instance use sleep to acquire and maintain navigation memory. If sleep-deprived after a navigation task, RFID (radio frequency identification device) recordings show that honeybees have a much harder time remembering how to return to their original location.
Similary, chronic sleep deprivation in lab rats adversely affects spatial memory. Even 4 days alone is enough to show significant slowing effects. Some postulate that 2 weeks of sleep deprivation may lead to the same spatial deficiencies exhibited after 2 nights of no sleep at all.
When mice are deprived solely of REM sleep via SSRI administration, spatial memory is notably altered as well. Mice who are given Citalopram injections at two different doses experience delayed REM onset as well as cognitive deficiencies in newly-learned tasks.
Interestingly, spatial learning and memory are rendered ineffective by the Western diet. Oxidative stress due to reactive oxygen species formed by obesity is thought to be the culprit. Oxidative stress ultimately leads to neuronal damage. For a person who incorporates both a Western diet and continual loss of sleep into his or her lifestyle, the extent of deficits in spatial memory becomes additive.
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