Memory Function May Be Stronger When Sleeping, Study Shows

Memories may be formed better during sleep

Memories are formulated best when sleeping according to a recent study performed in the Bjorn Rasch University of Basel, Switzerland.

Subjects were trained in a spatial memory task to learn positions of objects within a grid, in the presence of odors. The method’s purpose is to associate memory with the sense of smell. They were separated into two groups – one is to sleep while the other is to stay awake. Both groups were then re-exposed to the odor after twenty minutes to activate the recent memory. Those asleep were woken after the second twenty minute interval.

Both groups were given similar task but odors were no longer present. Subjects were to recall positions of the objects in the initial task. Without the odors, both groups were correct about 60 percent of the time but showed different results once odors were reinforced. The group who were awake only made 42 percent compared to the sleeping group’s 84 percent mark.

Reactivation of memories during sleep were found to be more stable and resistant to interference. Activated newly learned memories while asleep have stronger memory trace than when a personĀ  is awake, research concluded. The study gives clinical implications for treatment of post-traumatic sleep disorders.

Results of MRI scans further revealed a greater functionality in memory retrieval during sleep than when awake.