Written by Isabelle on August 28, 2020

Memory consolidation during REM sleep

The presence of dreaming during rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep indicates that memory formation may occur during this sleep stage. But a Japanese study published in June found that activity in a specific group of neurons is necessary for memory consolidation during REM sleep. Identifying the role of specific neurons in memory function deepens our understanding of how memories are formed, retrieved, and consolidated.

Adam emphasised that this is basically just further reinforcement of how crucial sleep is, especially if you are in a period of learning, “we don't get to control how much REM sleep we had specifically, but we do know that REM sleep tends to happen at the very, very end of a sleep period. So, if you're not getting enough time in bed, you're not getting enough sleep, and you probably will get less REM because you generally have the high density, slow way of deep sleep at the start of the sleep,” he says.

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba and the University of Tokyo have revealed that adult-born neurons (ABNs) in the hippocampus, which is a brain region associated with memory, are responsible for memory consolidation during REM sleep.

Professor Masashi Yanagisawa told Science Daily, "we found that young ABNs that were most active during REM sleep after the memory task were most likely to have been active during learning.”

Their data represents causal evidence that activity in young ABNs during REM sleep is necessary for memory consolidation. Clarification of these possibilities may lead to a deeper understanding of how memories are formed, retrieved, and consolidated, and could facilitate the development of new treatments for memory disorders.

Adam also stressed the importance of sleep given the changing nature of work, “post-COVID and in our changing economy there is going to be a massive proportion of the global workforce that's effectively going to have to retrain and reskill in the wake of a lot of industries changing or collapsing. There are going to be a lot of people learning new skills, learning new jobs, learning new roles, and sleep is really important for that,” he says.

You can read the study here.

Blog post written by Isabelle

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