This week José Antonio Lopez Guerrero shares with us part of his radio program in Spanish radio RNE, “Entre Probetas” (Among Test Tubes), where he explains some of the secrets of our dreams: how do they affect our memories?
The brain processes everything we learn and see during the day and decides what we should forget or remember. What was not known until now is when this selective moment takes place: when the information received is fixed in our memory.
Scientists from the Medical Research Institute and Bellvitge Hospital (Idibell), with the collaboration of the Universitat de Barcelona, have for the first time demonstrated that this moment occurs while we are dreaming. According to the study, the consolidation of memory, the fact that we can remember events or information, takes place during sleep thanks to the reactivation of information.
The research was carried out on a group of patients with a form of epilepsy that is characterized by an atrophy and alteration of the hippocampus, as well as on voluntary controls. While the patients were in hospital following operations, tests were carried out to see if the reactivation during sleep of information received during the day produced benefits for the consolidation of the memory. Before going to sleep, the subjects were presented with a pair of sounds and images and they were asked to remember the associated pairs. During the night, in a profound stage of sleep, half the sounds learned were repeated to them and first thing in the morning they were asked about the associations. Only those subjects with a functioning hippocampus recalled well those associations that had been reactivated during the night.
The discovery could help experiments with therapies that include the reactivation of memory during sleep in patients with brain lesions. It could also open up a new line of research on the neuronal mechanisms used for fixing what we learn.
You can enjoy the original content here.
José Antonio López Guerrero
Microbiology Professor at UAM (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). Researcher and Director of the Scientific Culture Department of the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center