Reactivate if you want to remember

action replay box

We know sleep helps consolidate memories. Now a new study sheds light on how your sleeping brain decides what’s worth keeping. The study found that when the information that makes up a memory has a high value—associated with, for example, making more money—the memory is more likely to be rehearsed and consolidated during sleep.

The study involved 60 young adults who learned the unique locations of 72 objects on a screen while hearing characteristic object sounds. Each object was assigned a value indicating the reward that could be earned if remembered later. Recall was tested 45 minutes later, followed by a 90 minute break, during which participants either slept or remained awake. In the sleep condition, low-intensity white noise was played to mask any external sounds. In one condition, 18 of the sound cues associated with low-value objects were also repeatedly presented during the sleep period. In the wake condition, participants either watched a movie or performed a difficult working memory task (during which the sound cues were similarly sometimes presented in the background).

For all groups, at the first memory test, recall accuracy was significantly lower for low-value items compared to high-value (there was not, unsurprisingly, any difference between the groups). But let’s get to the important results. After sleep, in the absence of sound reminders, accuracy declined significantly more for low-value objects than for high-value objects. However, when sound cues had been played during sleep (although participants had no awareness of them), low-value objects were not differentially disadvantaged.

Interestingly, the sound reminders benefited not only those low-value objects which were cued, but all the low-value objects.  But, in the wake condition, when sound cues had been softly played in the background, only those objects which had been cued benefited from the reminders.

Also interestingly, two participants who heard the cues during stage 2 sleep rather than slow-wave sleep received the least benefit.

What all this suggests is that covert reactivation may be a major factor in determining what gets chosen for consolidation, and wake and sleep reactivation might play distinct roles in this process - the former helping to strengthen individual, salient memories, and the latter strengthening, while also linking togther, categorically related memories.

The findings provide more weight to the idea that I have propounded before — that it’s worth consciously reviewing the day's memories that you want to keep, just before going to sleep.

http://www.futurity.org/science-technology/sleeping-on-it-helps-memories-stick/

[3381] Oudiette, D., Antony J. W., Creery J. D., & Paller K. A. (2013).  The Role of Memory Reactivation during Wakefulness and Sleep in Determining Which Memories Endure. The Journal of Neuroscience. 33(15), 6672 - 6678.

Recent posts by category

Problems

global prevalence of multiple sclerosis

Cognitive decline is common in those with multiple sclerosis, but not everyone is so afflicted. What governs whether an individual will suffer cognitive impairment? One proposed factor is cognitive reserve...

stock image

A large study, involving 3,690 older adults, has found that drugs with strong anticholinergic effects cause memory and cognitive impairment when taken continuously for a mere two months. Moreover, taking multiple drugs with weaker...

Bright light therapy lamp

A small study involving 18 individuals with at least one mild traumatic brain injury with related sleep disturbance has shown that six weeks of morning bright light therapy resulted in a marked decrease in subjective daytime sleepiness, and...

Premature infant with ventilator

More than 10% of all babies are born preterm every year, and prematurity is a well-established risk factor for cognitive impairment at some level.

Prematurity affects working memory in particular

In a recent German study involving...

Lifestyle

A Finnish study involving moderately obese adult patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has found that even a modest weight loss (5%) can improve OSA, if occurring in the early stages of OSA.

...

Data from a survey of 20,000 people across the UK has found that people who cycle, walk, or take public transport to work had a lower risk of being overweight than those who drove or took a taxi. People who walked to work were 40% less likely to...

stock image lab rat

While it’s well-established that chronic stress has all sorts of harmful effects, including on memory and cognition, the judgment on brief bouts of acute stress has been more equivocal. There is a certain amount of...

Fruit, Vegetables and Grain

Analysis of eight studies on diet and stroke published between 1990 and 2012 has found that risk of first-time stroke dropped with every 7g increase in total daily fibre. That amount of fibre is contained in a bowl of wholewheat pasta...

Strategies

A study involving 124 teenagers has found that those who were most accurate at tapping along with a metronome also showed the most consistent brain responses to a synthesized speech sound "da". The finding is consistent with previous...

meditating on a flame

Three classroom experiments have found that students who meditated before a psychology lecture scored better on a quiz that followed than students who did not meditate. Mood, relaxation, and class interest were not affected by the meditation...

Apsam Academic Race photo

Nice review in Scientific American of some of the research showing that the active use of a wide array of effective learning strategies is more important for academic achievement than ‘ability’.

...
Boiling coffee percolator

A study has found that brain regions responsible for making decisions continue to be active even when the conscious brain is distracted with a different task.

The study, in which 27 adults were given information about cars and other...

Education

St Anselm graduation

A very large genetic study has revealed that genetic differences have little effect on educational achievement. The study involved more than 125,000 people from the U.S., Australia, and 13 western European countries.

All told, genes...

stock image

A new study claims to provide ‘some of the strongest evidence yet’ for the benefits of gesturing to help students learn.

The study involved 184 children aged 7-10, of whom half were shown videos of an instructor teaching math...

Classroom image

Stereotype threat is a factor not only for some ethnic groups, but for women in certain areas (e.g., math, engineering), and also for older adults. Interventions that help reduce stereotype threat are also potentially helpful for those who suffer...

Marshmallows on plate

There's been a lot of talk in education about the message from research that self-control in pre-schoolers predicts their later success in the classroom and in life. While I do think that this is an important message that should be taken on board...

Cognition

screenshot semantic space

A recent study reveals that when we focus on searching for something, regions across the brain are pulled into the search. The study sheds light on how attention works.

In the experiments, brain activity was recorded as participants...

image from study

We talk about memory for ‘events’, but how does the brain decide what an event is? How does it decide what is part of an event and what isn’t? A new study suggests that our brain uses categories it creates based on...

dilated eye

Why do we find it so hard to stay on task for long? A recent study uses a new technique to show how the task control network and the default mode network interact (and fight each other for control).

The task control network (which...

action replay box

We know sleep helps consolidate memories. Now a new study sheds light on how your sleeping brain decides what’s worth keeping. The study found that when the information that makes up a memory has a high value—associated with, for...