Researchers have confirmed the mechanism that enables the brain to consolidate memory and found that a commonly prescribed sleep aid enhances the process.
Those discoveries could lead to new sleep therapies that will improve memory for aging adults and those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
Earlier research found a correlation between sleep spindles — bursts of brain activity that last for a second or less during a specific stage of sleep — and consolidation of memories that depend on the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is important in the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory, and spatial navigation.
UC Riverside psychologist Sara C. Mednick and her team demonstrated, for the first time, the critical role that sleep spindles play in consolidating memory in the hippocampus, and they showed that pharmaceuticals could improve that process, far more than sleep alone.