Snooze to not lose: memory boosting power of naps

A group of researchers has discovered that a brief nap can help to retain information, particularly in the case of understanding interdependent tasks that require to be done sequentially.

Research published in PLOS Computational Biology indicates that sleep is beneficial in consolidating memories and improving learning performance.

When we attempt to recall any information, a portion of our neural network is stimulated by specific brain activity patterns. “This study helps in understanding these patterns of neural spiking,” said Dr. Pavel Sanda, author of the study at the Institute of Computer Science of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czechoslovakia.

Jean Erik Delanois, a co-author on the study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, USA The study’s co-author, Jean Erik Delanois from the University of California San “Good quality sleep is an important part of learning better and remembering things.”

Sleep exploration using AI

Researchers employed artificial neural networks based on intelligence to investigate how the various aspects of the brain process information. Mainly, they used the SNN or spike neural model. The SNN is the third-generation artificial neural network designed to imitate and reflect the neural activity involved in humans’ brains.

Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are created by replicating the neurons within the brains of humans. This is accomplished by using algorithmic programming and algorithms. Researchers construct interconnected nodes that behave similarly to brain nerve cells. This is how artificial neural networks assist in understanding the brain’s capacity to process and learn; however, they are incomplete only partiallyThe study found how the reinforcement learning procedure can lead the way to catastrophic memory loss. Catastrophic forgetting occurs that occurs when new information overwrites previous information learned. This means that the capacity of the network to hold the data for more extended periods was hampered.

To combat this problem to overcome this issue, they let the network mimic the sleep-like effects. Additionally, researchers claim that incorporating sleep-like activities into artificial neural networks can improve their memory and learning abilities.

Learn hard, rest more: The best way to do well on your tests.

Replaying and sleeping information

Dr. Balaji Jayaprakash, associate professor at the Centre for Neuroscience, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, discusses the significance of sleep in preserving memories using an illustration from the Frankland laboratory.

The Frankland lab’s research has demonstrated that neurons’ firing patterns follow a specific way when you sleep. In addition, disruptions to these patterns could cause memory loss.

When we learn new tasks, we see an improvement in performance in further learning. But, simultaneously, the synaptic connection (communication among neurons) responsible for the previous job decreases slightly.

If we discover a new thing comparable to an event that has occurred recently, before the most recent event is stored, our brain ends up not holding both.

When a brief nap separates the learning process, this allows for recuperating the previous learning. This is because bits of particular memories are replayed in sleep, amalgamating new and old knowledge enabling you to perform several tasks.

Dr. Sanda claims that memories are stored within the power of the neuronal connections. Therefore, when certain groups of neurons are stimulated, it creates a pattern, a sign of a specific memory.

“What we’re doing by using this model is that we are creating these connections. Some of them are being strengthened while others are becoming weaker. We are basically creating this kind of structure for memories,” he says.

The effects of deep sleep, as well as the impact it has on memory

Every sleep cycle goes through two phases: the rapid movement of your eyes (REM) sleep and non-rapid movement (NREM) rest. Both are different in their effects on memory. For instance, motor skills and habit-related memories are strengthened during REM sleep. Learning new facts or events, such as declarative memories (recollecting specific memories), strengthens when in NREM. In the brain’s off (during the sleep phase), memory consolidation can help safeguard memories from tampering. Furthermore, it facilitates the integration of new knowledge with previous information. It also aids in long-term memory retention and avoids massive memory loss.

Read more about Sleep Doctor: Understanding the Phases of Sleeping.

The Feed-forward Inhibition

Dr Jayaprakash says that the study reveals a phenomenon known as feed-forward inhibition, a critical element in distinguishing between similar memories.

He says that a group of neurons could form the basis for information storage. Both could look similar due to the shared traits if presented with two bits of data. However, the brain concentrates on the unique features of one of the pieces of information that are not present in the second and, therefore, differentiates them.

He also explains that consistency in practice improves the ability to spot subtle differences between similar details.

Dr. Sanda says that contrary to popular belief that naps waste time, they can aid in memory retention and recall. “Taking an afternoon nap could assist in less forgetting. Therefore, you should sleep frequently and don’t be fooled into thinking that a nap time is wasted time. It helps you to remember,” he sums up.


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