The connection between sleep, memory and learning is deep and a new study has provided a deeper insight into how sleep and memory team up to help humans with learning.
Most animals, from flies to humans, have trouble remembering when sleep deprived, and studies have shown that sleep is critical in converting short-term into long-term memory, a process known as memory consolidation. But just how that process works has remained a mystery.
Paula Haynes and Bethany Christmann in the Griffith Lab observed, for the first time, that when DPM neurons are activated, the flies slept more; when deactivated, the flies kept buzzing.
These memory consolidators inhibit wakefulness as they start converting short-term to long-term memory. All this takes place in a section of the Drosophila brain called the mushroom body, similar to the hippocampus, where our memories are stored. As it turns out, the parts of the mushroom body responsible for memory and learning also help keep the Drosophila awake.
Understanding how sleep and memory are connected in a simple system, like Drosophila, can help scientists unravel the secrets of the human brain.
The study is published in the journal eLife.