Memorizing in your sleep

October 22, 1999

Where does the mind go when we sleep? As dreamers, we have long suspected this mysteriously sealed condition leads a purposeful life of its own. Science, however, has only lately supported a specific role for brain activity during sleep: cementing the memories we acquire while awake. In the October issue of Learning & Memory, Sidarta Ribeiro, Constantine Pavlides, and colleagues (Rockefeller University) show that exposure to a "memorable" environment causes the brain to turn on a gene called zif-268 during subsequent sleep. Because activation of zif-268 can alter nerve cell behavior, this discovery offers an intriguing glimpse of how the sleeping brain could consolidate recently formed memories.

In rats, certain brain cells that activate during daytime exploration tend to reactivate during sleep. Scientists speculate the sleeping brain reenacts waking activity in order to lay down lasting memories, but the way it might do this is unknown. Ribeiro and colleagues focused on the contribution of zif-268, which turns on after heightened brain activity and is associated with strengthened communication between nerve cells.

The researchers exposed a group of rats to novel, enriched environments (labyrinths with toys) and another group of rats to their normal home cages. Afterwards, the rats went to sleep, passing through successive stages known as slow wave and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During slow wave sleep, zif-268 turned off in all rats, regardless of which environment they had experienced. During REM sleep, however, zif-268 turned on in rats that had explored the labyrinths and stayed off in rats that had not. This retrieval of zif-268 activity during REM sleep may couple with other reactivated brain mechanisms to "process" memories of novel experiences. Such processing may in turn prove important for memory consolidation. So sleep well: Nature's sweet restorer has a job to do.
-end-
Contact information:

Constantine Pavlides
The Rockefeller University
New York, NY 10021
email: pavlide@rockvax.rockefeller.edu

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Related Brain Activity Articles from Brightsurf:

Inhibiting epileptic activity in the brain
A new study shows that a protein -- called DUSP4 -- was increased in healthy brain tissue directly adjacent to epileptic tissue.

What is your attitude towards a humanoid robot? Your brain activity can tell us!
Researchers at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Italy found that people's bias towards robots, that is, attributing them intentionality or considering them as 'mindless things', can be correlated with distinct brain activity patterns.

Using personal frequency to control brain activity
Individual frequency can be used to specifically influence certain areas of the brain and thus the abilities processed in them - solely by electrical stimulation on the scalp, without any surgical intervention.

Rats' brain activity reveals their alcohol preference
The brain's response to alcohol varies based on individual preferences, according to new research in rats published in eNeuro.

Studies of brain activity aren't as useful as scientists thought
Hundreds of published studies over the last decade have claimed it's possible to predict an individual's patterns of thoughts and feelings by scanning their brain in an MRI machine as they perform some mental tasks.

A child's brain activity reveals their memory ability
A child's unique brain activity reveals how good their memories are, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.

How dopamine drives brain activity
Using a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sensor that can track dopamine levels, MIT neuroscientists have discovered how dopamine released deep within the brain influences distant brain regions.

Brain activity intensity drives need for sleep
The intensity of brain activity during the day, notwithstanding how long we've been awake, appears to increase our need for sleep, according to a new UCL study in zebrafish, published in Neuron.

Do babies like yawning? Evidence from brain activity
Contagious yawning is observed in many mammals, but there is no such report in human babies.

Understanding brain activity when you name what you see
Using complex statistical methods and fast measurement techniques, researchers found how the brain network comes up with the right word and enables us to say it.

Read More: Brain Activity News and Brain Activity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.