The effect of sleep on memory

Problem Title

The effect of sleep on memory

Scientific Title

Improving sleep-related interventions targeting maladaptive memories

Student: 
Margaret Chen
Major(s): 
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
iCons Concentration: 
Biomedicine/Biosystems
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2015
Executive Summary 

Currently, the main treatment used for sleep-related interventions is psychotherapy or "talk therapy", but medication can also be used. Since every person is different, each will react differently to treatment. However, with only a couple methods available, research is necessary to uncover new treatments. Therefore, the goal is to determine how those traumatic memories can be manipulated and updated through sleep, so that people suffering from PTSD will no longer need to live with debilitating disruptions in their lives.

Memory processing is typically divided into three main phases: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. Encoding is the learning of new material that creates a labile short-term memory. Consolidation is the process of strengthening that short-term memory and transforming it into long-term memory for storage. Retrieval is when that long-term memory is reactivated. When a stored long-term memory is retrieved, it becomes vulnerable to alterations. As such, new learning that occurs while the memory is activated can lead to modifications. Reconsolidation is the process by which an activated long-term memory is changed and restabilized
Past research has shown the active role of sleep in consolidation, but little research has determined the direct role of sleep in memory reconsolidation.

Participants in this study will learn two visuo-spatial tasks and will be tested on their memory of it throughout the study. One group will receive a reminder of the first task before learning the second, while the other group will simply learn the second task. We predict that the two groups will have different memory accuracies of the original lists learned, where the group receiving the reminder will have a lower accuracy because of the reminder and immediate interference from learning the second task. By understanding how memory reconsolidation works, a new method of treatment can be successfully used for those suffering from PTSD.

Problem Keywords: 
memory
PTSD
sleep
Scientific Keywords: 
memory reconsolidation