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Science Nation: The Connection Between Sleep and Memory

3 minutes

(Describer) Streams of light collide to create a globe filled with water. Title: Science Nation. A young woman reads a notebook.

[explosion]

(male narrator) Whether it's studying for an exam or trying to remember your shopping list, might it be possible to improve your memory while you sleep? What determines which information is going to be kept and which information is lost?

(narrator) With support from the National Science Foundation, neuroscientist Ken Paller and his team at Northwestern University are studying the connection between memory and sleep, and how you can boost how much you remember while you snooze. Perhaps many stages of sleep are important for memory. However, a lot of the evidence has shown that slow-wave is particularly important for some types of memory.

(narrator) Slow-wave is the deepest sleep. Susan, come in. You're going to try to respond to these moving circles on the screen.

(narrator) Lab group members demonstrated for us two tests that they run on study participants.

(Describer) One of them types on a keyboard.

[beeping]

In one test, Susan learns to play two tunes. Blue circles are one tune, red ones another.

(Describer) The circles rise on a computer screen.

Then sensors monitor her brain waves while she naps. One of the tunes she learned plays to her as she sleeps.

(Describer) Another woman sits.

In a second exercise, Illeana memorizes the location of objects as they appear on a screen, each with a signature sound.

[baby cries]

Her brain waves are monitored as 25 sounds play back to her while she naps.

[baby cries]

In both experiments, participants who nodded off did a better job remembering what was reinforced while they slept.

(Paller) We think that memory processing happens during sleep every night. We're finding out what types of memory can be improved and how large the improvements can be and what stimuli work.

(narrator) Paller's goal is to better understand brain mechanisms responsible for memory. That may help people with memory problems, including those who find themselves more forgetful as they age. Paller says in the future, reinforcement techniques could be put to work enhancing how we learn. So instead of an all-nighter, we'll sleep on it.

(Describer) A globe turns by the title.

For Science Nation, I'm Miles O'Brien.

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With support from the National Science Foundation, neurologist Ken Paller and his team at Northwestern University are studying the connection between memory and sleep, and the possibilities of boosting memory storage while sleeping. A lot of the evidence has shown that slow-wave sleep is particularly important for some types of memory, and Paller’s goal is to better understand the fundamental brain mechanisms responsible for memory. And that, in turn, may help people with memory problems, including those who find themselves more forgetful as they age. Part of the National Science Foundation Series “Science Nation.”

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Science Nation
Episode 1
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 4
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 5
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 6
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 7
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 8
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 9
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 10
4 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12