Studies show your brain might clean your “memory inbox” while you sleep

Studies show your brain might clean your “memory inbox” while you sleep

Posted by Gerald J. Turner –

Everyone knows that with age, the ability to remember things becomes more difficult than it used to be. However, you already have one of the of the most important tools to help you distinguish which information is important and which is not: your bed.

A study was published in the professional journal Cell Reports that shows that sleep may be the key to helping the brain separate what really matters from mental background noise.

“Patterns of nerve activity in the brain that occur during waking are replayed during sleep, and this replay enables the consolidation of nerve connections in the brain and, therefore, memory,” said Jack Mellor, a co-author of the study and a researcher at the University of Bristol in England.

In other words, your brain separates the important stuff from the mental junk-mail you take in each day.

The hippocampus is a tiny part of the brain that is responsible for regulating feelings, as well as taking care of long-term memory. The brain chooses to replay and reinforce certain connections between active nerve cells. The brain then chooses to replay certain connections and not others. This, researchers believe, may help us to hold onto the most important info, and ditch the rest during our sleep.

The researchers have not directly concluded how or why your brain chooses certain activity patterns to be replay as you sleep. However, scientists think that your brain may favor memories which gave you a more intense emotional response. The feelings attached to the memory may be the key.

Mellor stated: “Animals and humans release a variety of neurochemicals, depending on the emotional state…which signal to the brain whether an event is important.”

That’s why we are more likely to remember that we have an important event like a stressful work meeting or tense family interaction on the horizon, while we are more likely to forget the stories your colleague told you about her cats’ latest antics. Getting a good night’s rest every night is important to help you keep what you need to remember front and center.​

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