Washington: Scientists have found the underlying mechanism of how sleep helps us learn and memorise.
A new study suggests that sleeping triggers the synapses in our brain to both strengthen and weaken, which prompts the forgetting, strengthening or modification of our memories in a process known as long-term potentiation (LTP).
Researchers led by Sidarta Ribeiro at the Brain Institute of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, measured the levels of a protein related to LTP during the sleep cycle of rats.
The authors then used the data to build models of sleep- dependent synaptic plasticity.
The results show that sleep can have completely different effects depending on whether LTP is present or not.
A lack of LTP leads to memory erasure, while its presence can either strengthen memories or prompt the emergence of new ones.
The research provides an empirical and theoretical framework to understand the mechanisms underlying the complex role of sleep for learning, which involves selective remembering as well as creativity.
The research was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.