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'Sleep spindles' key to boosting memory: study

Press Trust of India  |  London 

spindles or bursts of activity while we are asleep play a vital role in strengthening new memories, say researchers who found a way to decode and even enhance these waves.

The findings may lead to new ways to help people remember things better, researchers said.

Scientists have long known that spindles - sudden bursts of oscillatory activity - play an important role in the formation and retention of new memories.

spindles are half-second to two-second bursts of activity that occur during deep sleep, and can be visualised and measured on an electroencephalogram (EEG).

Earlier studies have shown that the number of spindles that occur during the night could predict a person's the next day.

However, many questions about the link between spindles and how a person's recently acquired information is 'reactivated' and strengthened during remained.

Researchers from and in the UK demonstrated that there is a particular pattern of activity that supports this reactivation process.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, has also shown that the content of reactivated memories can be decoded for activation patterns at the time that spindles occur.

The team devised an experiment in which people learned to associate particular words with particular objects and scenes.

Some study participants then took a 90-minute nap after their study session, whereas others stayed awake.

While people napped, researchers cued those associative memories and unfamiliar words. The team monitored the participants' activity during using an EEG machine.

The results showed them that spindles occurred when memories were reactivated by presenting the associated words.

Researchers were able to differentiate the signals associated with reactivated objects and scenes. This demonstrates that spindles produce a specific code for the content of reactivated memories - a process that may underpin our ability to remember more after

"While it has been shown previously that targeted reactivation can boost consolidation during sleep, we have now showed that spindles might represent the key underlying mechanism," said from

"Thus, direct induction of spindles - for example, by stimulating the with electrodes - perhaps combined with targeted reactivation, may enable us to further improve performance while we sleep," said Staresina.

"Our data suggest that spindles facilitate processing of relevant features during and that this process boosts consolidation," he said.

"We are quite certain that memories are reactivated in the during sleep, but we do not know the neural processes that underpin this phenomenon," said from the

"spindles have been linked to the benefits of for in previous research, so we wanted to investigate whether these waves mediate reactivation," said Cairney.

"If they support reactivation, we further reasoned that it could be possible to decipher signals at the time that these spindles took place," he added.

The findings may help to explain how that process may go wrong in people with learning difficulties, according to the researchers.

It might also lead to the development of effective interventions designed to boost for important information.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, March 11 2018. 13:10 IST