Losing sleep undoes the rejuvenating effects new learning has on the brain

Posted on January 10, 2006 

Losing sleep undoes the rejuvenating effects new learning has on the brain

As the pace of life quickens and it becomes harder to balance home and work, many people meet their obligations by getting less sleep.

But sleep deprivation impairs spatial learning — including remembering how to get to a new destination. And now scientists are beginning to understand how that happens: Learning spatial tasks increases the production of new cells in an area of the brain involved with spatial memory called the hippocampus. Sleep plays a part in helping those new brain cells survive.

A team of researchers from the University of California and Stanford University found that sleep-restricted rats had a harder time remembering a path through a maze compared to their rested counterparts. And unlike the rats that got enough sleep, the sleep-restricted rats showed reduced survival rate of new hippocampus cells.

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