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Resting Periods Show Significant Impact on Memory

Robert Buchanan MD

The chief of functional neurosurgery and neuroscience with Seton Brain & Spine Institute, neurosurgeon Robert Buchanan, MD, treats patients in Austin, Texas, and the surrounding areas. Dr. Robert Buchanan earned an MD with distinction in research from the St. Louis University School of Medicine. He continues to maintain an interest in research, most notably in studies regarding human memory.

Doctors, scientists, and researchers have long known that sleep has benefits in aiding memory retention. However, new studies performed at the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences and the University of Bonn are showing that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on memory retention.
Scientists at the University of Groningen conducted studies on sleep deprivation effects on dendrites, which are extensions of nerves where impulses are received from synapses, the elements which facilitate passing signals between neurons. In laboratory mice, a five-hour sleep deprivation showed significant reductions in both the spine density and length of dendrites in neurons within the hippocampus. This area of the brain is one in which learning and memory are processed. In the same study, these mice then slept for three hours, which reversed the shrinkage of dendrites.
In a similar study, scientists at the University of Bonn showed images of trees, airplanes, and people to human subjects. A white square label was located within each image, and tests subjects memorized the position of each square. While this study focused more along how the human brain remembers patterns, the type of neuronal activity present during the initial showing of the photos appeared during rest sequences. Scientists were able to discern that it is possible for these kinds of patterns to reappear within the brain, but it is more likely to occur after a period of rest.

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