Several studies have linked more sleep and better memory. However, new fruit fly research, found in the journal Current Biology, indicates that getting extra sleep can help the brain to conquer neurological defects that could bar the ability to form memories.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine conducted a study using three groups of fruit flies, since their brains regulate sleep similarly to humans. The scientists tampered with their ability to produce new memories by disabling a different memory gene in each group, according to Medical News Today.
The disabled gene caused one group to develop a memory condition similar to Alzheimer's disease. In another group, the disabled gene made it hard for brain cells to make new connections that encode memories. In the last group, the flies made too many of these new connections.Then, lead author Paul Shaw and his colleagues increased the amount of sleep each group of flies received. They did so by either increasing the amount of a protein associated with sleep, stimulating brain cells related to sleep or by administering a drug to stimulate a chemical messenger associated with sleep.
With the additional sleep, which was equivalent to an extra 3 to 4 hours of sleep over a minimum 2-day period in humans, Shaw said that the problems they created could be handled. He added that it "has to be the right kind of sleep."
Shaw mentioned that the disabled gene still "does not work properly" in the flies. He said that sleep cannot bring back the missing or disabled gene, but it discovers ways to "work around the physiological problem."
Shaw claimed that their research has "significant therapeutic potential" if they can learn how to induce the same sleep in human brains. Shaw, along with other researchers, believes that sleep does support brain cell connections responsible for encoding memories and decrease connections responsible for encoding worthless memories, as reported by Sleep Review.
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