It’s been known for some time that there’s a correlation between sleep, rest, and memory. For example, it’s been shown that people who take naps while studying retain more information. A new study from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and a team lead by Professor Yi Zhong has revealed a biochemical and genetic basis for this relationship in drosophila (fruit flies). [Reference: AAAS: Medecine]
Zhong’s team found that normally, as each learning period ends, SHP-2 phosphatase activity inside stimulated neurons triggers a wave of biochemical signals, which have to peak and decay before the next learning session can begin. “The repeated formation and decay of the biochemical signal during each rest interval induces long-term memory,” explains Zhong.
Zhong’s team has succeeded in reversing memory deficits in mutant flies in two ways. Either reducing the activity of mutated SHP-2 phosphatase to normal levels with drugs or simply altering training regimens to include 40-minute rest intervals instead of the normal 15 minutes both established long-term memory in the mutants.
“Our results suggest that longer resting intervals for Noonan’s disease patients might reverse their memory deficits,” says Zhong.