Thus, the absence of prior sleep compromises our capacity for committing new experiences to memory.These initial findings suggest an important, if not essential, role for sleep in the consolidation of newly formed memories.This type of memory relies on the function of a brain region called the hippocampus and other surrounding medial temporal lobe structures.
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"Consolidation" is a term that is bandied about a lot in recent memory research. Initially, information is thought to be encoded as patterns of neural activity — cells "talking" to each other.
Later, the information is coded in more persistent molecular or structural formats (e.g., the formation of new synapses).
It is these processes that are generally referred to as “consolidation”.
Recently, however, the idea has been gaining support that stable representations can revert to a labile state on reactivation. We already have ample evidence that retrieval is a dynamic process during which new information merges with and modifies the existing representation — memory is now seen as reconstructive, rather than a simple replaying of stored information Researchers who have found evidence that supposedly stable representations have become labile again after reactivation, have called the process “reconsolidation”, and suggest that consolidation, rather than being a one-time event, occurs repeatedly every time the representation is activated.
Further, patterns of activity observed in rats during spatial learning are replayed in hippocampal neurons during subsequent sleep, further suggesting that learning may continue in sleep.
In humans, recent studies have demonstrated the benefits of sleep on declarative memory performance, thus giving a neurological basis to the old adage, "sleep on it." A night of sleep reportedly enhances memory for associations between word pairs.Similar overnight improvements on virtual navigation tasks have been observed, which correlate with hippocampal activation during sleep.Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, is known to produce deficits in hippocampal activation during declarative memory formation, resulting in poor subsequent retention.Alison Preston, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Learning and Memory, recalls and offers an answer for this question.A short-term memory's conversion to long-term memory requires the passage of time, which allows it to become resistant to interference from competing stimuli or disrupting factors such as injury or disease.Researchers found that the changes to a cell that occurred in response to an initial stimulation lasted some three to five minutes and disappeared within five to 10 minutes.