Study: Elderly Memory Loss Due to Lack of Deep Sleep
January 29, 2013 8:23 AM
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Slow waves are generated by the middle frontal lobe, and as this region deteriorates with age, the elderly tend to lose the ability to experience long REM sleep
University of California, Berkeley, scientists have found a connection between the amount of sleep one gets in their old age and the
quality of their memory
The UC Berkeley team, led by Matthew Walker, believes that forgetfulness in old age may be attributed to a lack of deep, non-rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep.
According to the study, the slow brain waves produced during deep REM sleep help move memories from the hippocampus (short-term memory storage in the brain) to the prefrontal cortex (long-term memory in the brain) while we are young. But as we grow older, memories tend to get trapped in the hippocampus because we receive less REM sleep.
Also, these slow waves are generated by the middle frontal lobe, and as this region deteriorates with age, the elderly tend to lose the ability to experience long REM sleep.
“What we have discovered is a dysfunctional pathway that helps explain the relationship between brain deterioration, sleep disruption and memory loss as we get older – and with that, a potentially new treatment avenue,” said Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley.
The study took a look at 18 healthy young adults in their 20s and 15 healthy older adults in their 70s. Before going to bed, all participants learned 120 word sets. They then
went to sleep
while an electroencephalographic (EEG) machine measured their brain waves.
In the morning, all participants were tested on their word sets once again while both functional and structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans were conducted.
The team found that the elderly participants had a 75 percent lower quality of deep sleep than the younger crowd, and their memory with the word sets was 55 percent lower too. The study noted that the younger participants had a longer deep sleep, which helped with the memory sets.
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RE: Not Significant
1/29/2013 1:28:35 PM
Translation: The study results are interesting enough to justify further exploration. The small sample didn't wast money; it was, essentially. a prototype study IMO.
Often small samples are run with limited funds in order to garner Big Bucks for broader or more in depth follow-up studies. And, that's the way I'd like the research funds to be spent: prototyping, analysis, justification.
RE: Not Significant
1/30/2013 10:31:08 AM
The sample size was also suitable for another reason - there are limited variables. Old people have poorer memories than young people. This has been an established fact since forever so it does not require a massive population. The smaller population was sufficient to prove broad differences between the two, i.e. for a pre-existing (also well studied) theory that REM sleep influences long term memory.
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