Monday, December 31, 2012

Your Sleep Dialogue

Did you know that studies at UCLA have challenged theories of brain communication during sleep (e.g., the hippocampus talks to the neocortex)? Studies showed there are three players: the neocortex, the hippocampus, and the entorhinal cortex or EC (which connects the neocortex and the hippocampus). And the neocortex is driving the entorhinal cortex, which in turn behaves as if it is remembering something, which then drives the hippocampus. According to Mehta, “This suggests that whatever is happening during sleep is not happening the way we thought it was. There are more players involved so the dialogue is far more complex, and the direction of the communication is the opposite of what was thought.” This process may occur during sleep as a way to unclutter memories and delete information that was processed during the day but is irrelevant, which results in consolidation of important memories as they become more salient and readily accessible. Notably, Alzheimer’s disease starts in the entorhinal cortex and those individuals tend to have impaired sleep in addition to memory challenges.

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