Additional Sleep May Improve Memory in Alzheimer's

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A finding by researchers in fruit flies indicates that extra sleep may help to improve memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Paul Shaw, PhD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues conducted a study in three groups of fruit flies. In each group, the researchers disabled a gene causing different memory problems, but all of which inhibited the ability to create new memories. The brains of fruit flies regulate sleep in a similar fashion to humans.

They then increased the amount of sleep the flies got. The additional amount was equivalent to about three or four hours in humans. Sleep was induced through either stimulating brain cells involved in sleep, boosting production of a protein associated with sleep, or administering a drug to induce sleep.

The extra sleep restored the ability of all three groups of flies to make new memories, the researchers reported in the journal Current Biology. They surmise that the additional sleep increases connections in brain cells responsible for encoding memories.

“It has to be the right kind of sleep, and we're not sure how to induce this kind of slumber in the human brain yet, but our research suggests that if we can learn how, it could have significant therapeutic potential,” Shaw said in a statement.

Additional Sleep May Improve Memory in Alzheimer's
Additional Sleep May Improve Memory in Alzheimer's

Numerous studies have associated sleep with improved memory. But can sleep improve memory enough to help patients with Alzheimer's? This is what researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis set out to investigate.

Paul Shaw, PhD, professor of neurobiology at the Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted their study on three groups of fruit flies — whose brains regulate sleep in a similar way to humans.

In each group of flies, the researchers disabled a gene to cause different memory problems, but all of which interfered with their ability to make new memories.

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