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Fritz
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Researchers say a nap prepares the brain to learn
« on: 2010-03-04 22:26:43 »
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And they mocked those Civil Servants that were just maxing their brain power ... for what we are not sure though ...

Fritz


Source: The Economist
Author: From The Economist online
Date: Feb 23rd 2010

How rest helps memory : Sleepy heads

MAD dogs and Englishmen, so the song has it, go out in the midday sun. And the business practices of England’s lineal descendant, America, will have you in the office from nine in the morning to five in the evening, if not longer. Much of the world, though, prefers to take a siesta. And research presented to the AAAS meeting in San Diego suggests it may be right to do so. It has already been established that those who siesta are less likely to die of heart disease. Now, Matthew Walker and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that they probably have better memory, too. An afternoon nap, Dr Walker has discovered, sets the brain up for learning.



The role of sleep in consolidating memories that have already been created has been understood for some time. Dr Walker has been trying to extend this understanding by looking at sleep’s role in preparing the brain for the formation of memories in the first place.

His team was interested in a specific type of memory—episodic memory, which relates to specific events, places and times. This contrasts with procedural memory, the skills required to perform some sort of mechanical task, such as driving. The theory the researchers wanted to test was that the ability to form new episodic memories deteriorates with accrued wakefulness, and that sleep thus restores the brain’s capacity for efficient learning.

They asked a group of 39 people to take part in two learning sessions, one at noon and one at 6pm. On each occasion the participants tried to memorise and recall 100 combinations of pictures and names. After the first session they were assigned randomly to either a control-group, which remained awake, or a nap group, which had a 100-minutes of monitored sleep.

Those who remained awake throughout the day became worse at learning. Those who napped, by contrast, actually improved their capacity to learn, doing better in the evening than they had at noon. These findings support the theory that sleep is clearing the brain’s short-term memory and making way for new information.

It is already well-known that fact-based memories are stored temporarily in an area called the hippocampus, a structure in the centre of the brain. But they do not stay there long. Instead, they are sent to the prefrontal cortex for longer-term storage. Electroencephalograms, which measure electrical activity in the brain, have shown that this memory-refreshing capacity is related to a specific type of sleep called Stage 2 non-REM sleep.

The ideal nap, then, follows a cycle of between 90-100 minutes. The first 30 minutes is a light sleep that helps improve motor performance. Then comes 30 minutes of stage 2 sleep, which refreshes the hippocampus. After this, between 60-90 minutes into the nap, comes rapid-eye-movement, or REM, sleep, during which dreaming happens. This, research suggests, is the time when the brain makes connections between the new memories that have just been “downloaded” from the hippocampus and those that already exist—thus making new experiences relevant in a wider context.

The benefits to memory of a nap, says Dr Walker, are so great that they can equal an entire night’s sleep. He warns, however, that napping must not be done too late in the day or it will interfere with night-time sleep. Moreover, not everyone awakens refreshed from a siesta.

The grogginess that can result from an unrefreshing siesta is termed “sleep inertia”. This happens when the brain is woken from a deep sleep with its cells still firing at a slow rhythm and its temperature and blood flow decreased. Sara Mednick, from the University of California, San Diego, suggests that non-habitual nappers suffer from this more often than those who siesta regularly. It may be that those who awake groggy choose not to siesta in the first place. Perhaps, though, as in so many things, practice makes perfect.
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MoEnzyme
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Re:Researchers say a nap prepares the brain to learn
« Reply #1 on: 2010-03-05 00:21:45 »
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Fritz, true, and often Mexicans, "Mexican Americans", and other hispanics get mocked for their siesta culture . . . truth be told many of these multi-cultis semi-citizen workers at frequently much less than standard red-neck citizen gringo wages at far earlier hours in the morning have been sticking their necks and backs out for us many times over while we were still just waking up. Napping and drinking jokes aside by the time you see them enjoying a well-earned siesta they've been already working harder than any three people in your immediate family . . .  please choose wisely. . .  and once they wake up again they are probably more productive than you for the rest of the day anyway. We should better appreciate such bargains. -Mo
« Last Edit: 2010-03-05 00:27:01 by MoEnzyme » Report to moderator   Logged

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Fritz
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Re:Researchers say a nap prepares the brain to learn
« Reply #2 on: 2010-03-06 16:05:47 »
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Quote:
<snip>and once they wake up again they are probably more productive than you for the rest of the day anyway. We should better appreciate such bargains. -Mo<snip>
As we take note of the "gast arbeiter" in North America; I guess we should take note that as the economy continues to shrink who will be better equipped to do the real work and have the jobs that are left as we sip our 'cafegrande' at 9:30am reflecting on what we might accomplish this day.

Cheers

Fritz
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