Prefrontal cortex atrophy limits deep sleep needed for memory retention.
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A new study has, for the first time, linked structural brain changes that occur naturally with age to sleep-related memory problems. The finding offers an explanation as to why our ability to learn new information declines as we get older, a fact scientists have known for decades but have never fully understood.
A team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, designed an experiment which involved placing electrodes on the scalp of older subjects, to mimic the shape of slow-wave phase sleep. Humans spend an average of a quarter of each night engaged in deep low-wave phase sleep. This deep sleep has been found to play a major role in memory retention, as the brain moves temporary memories into long-term storage.