New research conducted with fruit flies reveals that extra sleep can help the brain overcome serious neurological defects that may have otherwise blocked memory formation.
Studying three groups of flies, the scientists interfered with their ability to remember by disabling a different critical memory gene in each group.
In one group, the disabled gene led the flies to develop a condition with similarities to Alzheimer’s disease. In another group, the disabled gene made it difficult for fly brain cells to reinforce new connections that encode memories. In the third group, the disrupted gene left the flies with too many of these connections.
“Our data showed that extra sleep can handle any of these problems,” said senior author Paul Shaw, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology. “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.”