Mistaken Memory Averted With Good Sleep

by Tanya Thomas on Sep 14 2009 11:39 AM

A new study recommends sleep to students who find themselves flubbing multiple-choice tests. They say that sleep can reduce mistakes in memory.

The first-of-its-kind study led by a cognitive neuroscientist at Michigan State University, appears in the September issue of the journal Learning and Memory.

Kimberly Fenn, principal investigator and MSU assistant professor of psychology, said: "It's easy to muddle things in your mind."

"This research suggests that after sleep you're better able to tease apart the incorrect aspect of that memory," the expert added.

To reach the conclusion, Fenn and colleagues from the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis studied the presence of false memory in groups of college students. While previous research has shown that sleep improves memory, this study is the first to address errors in memory, she said.

Study participants were exposed to lists of words and then, 12 hours later, exposed to individual words and asked to identify which words they had seen or heard in the earlier session. One group of students was trained in the morning (10 a.m.) and tested after the course of a normal sleepless day (10 p.m.), while another group was trained at night and tested 12 hours later in the morning, after at least six hours of sleep.

Three experiments were conducted, using different stimuli. In each, the students who had slept had fewer problems with false memory - choosing fewer incorrect words.