Awake and Learning: Memory storage begins before bedtime

11:36am, March 29, 2006

Learning isn't a task that just happens overnight. While research has suggested that a good night's sleep aids in memory storage, some memory is processed while a person is still awake, a new study finds.

Previous research in both people and animals has found that the parts of the brain engaged in learning a task reactivate during sleep, perhaps transferring a memory from short-term to long-term storage (SN: 10/11/03, p. 228: Restoring Recall: Memories may form and reform, with sleep).

But sleep may account for only a few steps in the transfer process, says Philippe Peigneux, a neuroscientist at the University of Liège in Belgium. Rather than passively holding on to memories until bedtime, the wakeful brain may get a head start on memory consolidation.

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