AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 1, 2019


Sleep Deprivation Handicaps the Brain's Ability to Form New Memories, Study in Mice Shows

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Chemical recalibration of brain cells during sleep is crucial for learning, and sleeping pills may sabotage it 

Studying mice, scientists at Johns Hopkins have fortified evidence that a key purpose of sleep is to recalibrate the brain cells responsible for learning and memory so the animals can “solidify” lessons learned and use them when they awaken – in the case of nocturnal mice, the next evening. The researchers, all of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, also report they have discovered several important molecules that govern the recalibration process, as well as evidence that sleep deprivation, sleep disorders and sleeping pills can interfere with the process. “Our findings solidly advance the idea that the mouse and presumably the human brain can only store so much information before it needs to recalibrate,” says Graham Diering, PhD, the postdoctoral fellow who led the study. “Without sleep and the recalibration that goes on during sleep, memories are in danger of being lost.”

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