Neuroscientists know that sleep helps memory, but how and why has long been a serious question.  New evidence suggests brain cells form new neural connections during sleep cycles.

READ MORE // The Brain that Changes itself

In 2014, Neurologist Wen-Biao Gan from New York University’s School of Medicine saw proof that cell form these connections during sleep.  The researchers taught mice a task new to them and then watched the brains of the mice as they slept.  What they saw was neurons as they made new connections.

To observe the changes, the team used genetically modified mice which produced a fluorescent protein gene, making neurons more visible.  The mice were divided into two groups: one sleeping after learning the task and another that didn’t sleep.

When Gan imaged the brains of the two groups, he found the mice that were allowed to sleep developed more dendrites – filaments that allow communication between neurons – that the sleep deprived subjects.

These observations were announced in June, showing that deep sleep aids in the creation of new brain cell connections – at least as far as physical tasks are concerned.

There’s 99 more stories from 2014.  Check out the Best of 2014 series here

For the full list and best of 2014, follow us on
Twitter @ThisIsIons and on Facebook

Have something to add? Join the discussion!