Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Sleeping Brain Behaves as If It’s Remembering Something

 

English: Entorhinal cortex (red) was thinnest ...

English: Entorhinal cortex (red) was thinnest in youth with Alzheimer’s-related ApoE4 gene variant. View of left entorhinal cortex from beneath the brain, with front of brain at top. Artist’s rendering. Source: Philip Shaw, M.D., NIMH Child Psychiatry Branch http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2007/cortex-area-thinner-in-youth-with-alzheimers-related-gene.shtml (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 7 October 2012 article at Science Daily

 

UCLA researchers have for the first time measured the activity of a brain region known to be involved in learning, memory and Alzheimer’s disease during sleep. They discovered that this part of the brain behaves as if it’s remembering something, even under anesthesia, a finding that counters conventional theories about memory consolidation during sleep.

Mehta and his team looked at three connected brain regions in mice — the new brain or the neocortex, the old brain or the hippocampus, and the entorhinal cortex, an intermediate brain that connects the new and the old brains. While previous studies have suggested that the dialogue between the old and the new brain during sleep was critical for memory formation, researchers had not investigated the contribution of the entorhinal cortex to this conversation, which turned out to be a game changer, Mehta said. His team found that the entorhinal cortex showed what is called persistent activity, which is thought to mediate working memory during waking life, for example when people pay close attention to remember things temporarily, such as recalling a phone number or following directions.

“The big surprise here is that this kind of persistent activity is happening during sleep, pretty much all the time.” Mehta said. “These results are entirely novel and surprising. In fact, this working memory-like persistent activity occurred in the entorhinal cortex even under anesthesia.”

The study appears Oct. 7, 2012 in the early online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The findings are important, Mehta said, because humans spend one-third of their lives sleeping and a lack of sleep results in adverse effects on health, including learning and memory problems.

It had been shown previously that the neocortex and the hippocampus “talk” to each other during sleep, and it is believed that this conversation plays a critical role in establishing memories, or memory consolidation. However, no one was able to interpret the conversation…..

 

 

 

 

 

October 10, 2012 - Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , ,

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