New York: Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have found that a particular set of cells in a small region of the brain are responsible for memory problems due to sleep loss.
By selectively increasing levels of a signalling molecule in these cells, the researchers prevented mice from developing memory deficits.
The cyclic AMP (cAMP) signalling pathway plays a crucial role in sleep loss-associated memory problems.
"What we have shown is that memory loss due to sleep deprivation is really dependent on misregulation of cAMP signaling in the excitatory neurons of the hippocampus region of the brain," said Robbert Havekes, research associate, the study's senior author and Brush Family professor of biology at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
They targeted excitatory neurons because of their importance in transmitting signals in the brain and the fact that their functioning relies on cAMP signalling.
As the next step, the team is exploring what cAMP is doing to help consolidate memory.
"Thinking about people who do shift work or doctors who work long hours, if we can tackle the cognitive problems that result from sleep loss, that would be a great thing," Havekes said.
Previous research has shown that even brief periods of sleep deprivation can lead to deficits in memory formation.
The paper appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience.