Sleep has always been associated with improved memory, but a recent study shows that it may also help those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s.
According to Medical News Today, this discovery was made by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, who conducted their study on three groups of fruit flies, all whose brains regulate sleep in a way similar to humans. In each group, the researchers disables a gene to cause different memory problems. Each memory problem interfered with the flies’ ability to make new memories.
In one group, the disabled gene triggered the development of a memory condition that was very similar to Alzheimer’s disease, while another group of flies had problems making brain connections that encode memories, and the third group had too many of these brain connections. Next, the researchers increased the amount of sleep each group of flies got using one of three methods – stimulating brain cells involved in sleep, increasing the production of a protein associated with sleep or administration of a drug that simulates the activity of a chemical messenger involved in sleep. The additional amount of sleep the flies received is the equivalent to an extra 3-4 hours sleep each day over a 2 day period.
When the study was concluded, the researchers published their findings in Current Biology and found that the additional sleep restored the ability of all groups of flies to make new memories, regardless of the technique used to generate the extra sleep. While sleep could not bring that missing or damaged genes back, they did find ways to work around the physiological problem. Although further research is needed to fully analyze the exact association between sleep and memory problems, this could pave a new way for neurological conditions that affect memory. Alzheimer’s happens to be one such condition. This is not the only study published on this subject, but it is one of the most significant.