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Why do our memories fade with age? Sleep deprivation may hold the answer

January 28, 2013

Why do our memories fade with age? Sleep deprivation may hold the answer

Prefrontal cortex atrophy limits deep sleep needed for memory retention.

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.

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