Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Children who get a good night's sleep 'have better memories'

Researchers have found that children who slept well had a boosted memory which could explain why children who do not sleep well do not do as well in school

Children who get a good night’s sleep have a boosted memory according to new research. The findings could explain why children who do not sleep well do not do as well in school. Children were more effectively able to convert ‘implicit’ knowledge into ‘explicit,’ which often happens in learning, than adults according to researchers from the University of Tuebingen, Germany.

Explicit knowledge is information stored in the mind while implicit knowledge is being able to go about doing something without necessarily knowing how. Implicit may be converted into explicit, and vice versa, but the effects of sleep on memory have not been studied extensively, especially in children.

Dr Jan Born and colleagues at the university trained twenty eight children and adults to press buttons on a panel in a particular order using a trial and error method. After a night’s sleep, the participants were asked to explicitly recall the sequence of button presses. Children performed better on this explicit memory test than did the adults, according to the findings published in Nature Neuroscience. The researchers noted the children had slower wave activity in their sleep, and this quantity was linked with explicit memory performance.

The deepest stage of sleep is characterised by brain patterns known as slow wave activity - electrical waves which wash across the brain, roughly once a second, 1,000 times a night. Slow wave activity is believed to be critical to the restoration of mood and the ability to learn, think and remember.

Dr Born said although sleep-dependent benefits have been shown in several other memory tasks in children, most of these effects are smaller or comparable to those seen in adults. He said: ‘When sleep followed implicit training on a motor sequence, children showed greater gains in explicit sequence knowledge after sleep than adults. ‘This greater explicit knowledge in children was linked to their higher sleep slow-wave activity and to stronger hippocampal (major part of the brain) activation at explicit knowledge retrieval. ‘Our data indicate the superiority of children in extracting invariant features from complex environments, possibly as a result of enhanced reprocessing of hippocampal memory representations during slow-wave sleep. ‘The conversion of implicit experience to explicit knowledge seems to be a specific advantage of children's sleep.’

source : DAILY MAIL UK


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