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The Sciences

Can Not Sleeping Erase Your Memories?

DiscoblogBy Boonsri DickinsonAugust 22, 2008 12:23 AM


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People are losing sleep over the Olympics, which could be a big problem if not getting enough sleep really does have the same effect as three to four drinks of alcohol. We know sleep helps improve procedural skills such as playing the piano, but now a new study says that sleep also helps determine what we remember and what we forget. Harvard researchers tested 88 college students and put them into three groups—one that stayed awake all day, another that got to sleep for 12 hours and were tested in the morning, and a base group that was tested 30 minutes after images were shown. All groups were shown images of a car parked on a street in front of shops and a totaled car parked on a street to measure which had the greatest emotional impact, and how sleep affected how the subjects remembered details of the pictures such as the background and the street. People who stayed awake all day forgot the car crash, says Jessica Payne, a Harvard University research fellow in the Division of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But those who'd slept remembered details about the smashed car. All of which could spell trouble for people who have the sleepless gene.

Image: flickr/ thegarnetgirl

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