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From Z's to A's

New studies confirm that ‘sleeping on it’ makes for better learning and memory

2:43pm, June 23, 2011

College students probably won’t heed the advice, but new research confirms that sleeping is essential for learning and remembering.

Sleep’s function has long been a mystery (SN: 10/24/09, p. 16), but many researchers have gathered evidence that it is important for learning and memory. Two new studies confirm that sleep plays a central role in solidifying memories and preparing the brain for new learning.

Tickling a few neurons located at the top of the fruit fly brain triggers the insects to sleep, researchers led by Paul Shaw at Washington University in St. Louis discovered. Turning on the sleep-initiating brain cells makes short-term memories into long-lived ones, the researchers report June 24 in Science. A separate study in the same issue of Science, by researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, describes microscopic evidence that during sleep, connections between brain cells are pruned. The group had indire

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