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Wayfaring Sleepers: Brain area linked to slumber-aided recall

Close your eyes, go to sleep, and let your brain shore up memories of the places you've visited recently and the routes you took to get there.

That's the implication of the latest study to explore sleep's role in learning and recall.

A team of neuroscientists led by Philippe Peigneux of the University of Liège in Belgium studied volunteers who, during an afternoon session, learned to navigate between landmarks in a computer-generated virtual town. Participants who later that night during a particular stage of deep sleep displayed pronounced activity in the hippocampus—a brain structure already tied to memory—also showed superior recall the next day of travel routes in the virtual town.

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