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Tag: Memory

We need sleep to keep our brains healthy and guard against cognitive decline

Brain & Life »

How well we sleep impacts how we think and feel, as well as our alertness, memory, and concentration. “Sleep quality and quantity are directly related to the health of the brain,” says Beth A. Malow, MD, MS, FAAN, professor of neurology and director of the sleep disorders division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Several studies have demonstrated an association between sleep disturbances such as insomnia, fragmented sleep, sleep apnea, and even excessive napping and an increased risk of cognitive decline over time, says Brendan P. Lucey, MD, assistant professor of neurology and director of the sleep medicine section at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

In 2009, a series of studies on mice conducted at Washington University were among the first to suggest that chronically sleep-deprived subjects develop higher levels of harmful amyloid beta and tau proteins—considered, along with neurofibrillary tangles, to be hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. “Think of tau and amyloid as the waste produced by typical nerve function,” says Charlene Gamaldo, MD, FAAN, associate professor of neurology and medical director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center. “Normally, the brain clears these metabolic waste products away.”

And it may clear away these proteins during sleep, according to a landmark 2013 rodent study in Science by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who showed that during deep sleep, when neural activity quiets down, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) bathes the brain, washing away excess amyloid beta and tau proteins. A more recent study, published in the November 2019 issue of iScience, provided further insight into CSF’s function. MRI scans taken while subjects were sleeping showed that during deep sleep, blood flow in the brain diminished as pulsing waves of CSF flushed out excess amyloid beta and tau, presumably girding the brain against cognitive decline. So while it has been known that sleep has some value for survival, these reports seem to put sleep front and center in terms of protecting us from cognitive decline.

Read the whole article to learn why and how to get adequate sleep »

Why walking helps us think

Ferris Jabr, The New Yorker:

When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

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If you want to be smarter, you need to sleep more

It’s been repeatedly shown that sleep is essential to how we form memories.

The human brain requires we sleep roughly one third of every day to properly process and store thoughts so they can be remembered at a later time. Depriving ourselves of sleep, especially over the long term, can disrupt this process. And it can make learning more difficult.

Researchers at the Sleep Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa have found that once you drift off, your brain shifts information from the hippocampus, which is only used to store recent memories, to the prefrontal cortex. It’s how we learn new things, and remember them for the future.

A short night of sleep may translate into learning less. Our brain requires suffecient time to store everything it took in during the day. Researchers say it’s clear that if you want to be smarter, you may need to sleep more.

Read More at CBC

A simple technique to boost your short and long-term memory

David Robson, BBC:

When trying to memorise new material, it’s easy to assume that the more work you put in, the better you will perform. Yet taking the occasional down time – to do literally nothing – may be exactly what you need. Just dim the lights, sit back, and enjoy 10-15 minutes of quiet contemplation, and you’ll find that your memory of the facts you have just learnt is far better than if you had attempted to use that moment more productively.

Although it’s already well known that we should pace our studies, new research suggests that we should aim for “minimal interference” during these breaks – deliberately avoiding any activity that could tamper with the delicate task of memory formation. So no running errands, checking your emails, or surfing the web on your smartphone. You really need to give your brain the chance for a complete recharge with no distractions.

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