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This week in Neuroscience



More Evidence That Sleep Helps Strengthen Memory

Sleep may aid in the reinforcement of memory, a new study in rats suggests.

The rats in the Journal of Neuroscience study were initially conditioned to recognize a particular odor by being administered a mild foot shock during wakefulness in response to the odor information; the rats’ fear response to the odor was used as a gauge of their memory of the odor.

Then, researchers exposed the rats to that odor while they were sleeping, particularly during the slow-wave phase of sleep; instead of actually having the rats smell the odor, they electrically stimulated brain circuits linked to odor processing in order to control the rats’ odor experience.

The researchers found that when the rats were exposed to the odor during the slow-wave sleep, their memory of that odor was enhanced compared with rats who had the odor replayed when they were awake or who never had the odor replayed at all.

This isn’t the first time research has shown that sleep can help to strengthen memories. A small study in the journal Science showed, for instance, that people performed better on a test of memory after taking a quick nap, though that study did not show that you can learn new things during sleep — only that existing memories can be strengthened.



Long Evans-4061

Long Evans-4061 (Photo credit: @cateyephotos)

April 21, 2014   LaboratoryNews   The humble sewing machine has inspired a new imaging tool which is providing new clues about the origins of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It was thought that Alzheimer’s was caused by the accumulation of long amyloid fibres at the centre of senile plaques because of improper folding of amyloid-β. However, this new research – published in Nature Scientific Reports – suggests that the fibres and plaques are actually the body’s protective response to smaller, more toxic structures made from amyloid-β called oligomers.

The technique worked so well that the team is hoping to develop it so that oligomer formation could be monitored in real time. This would give researchers a better understanding of the early phases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and could offer a potential new way to develop tests for the disease.


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