Neuroscientific insights into learning and memory have mostly concerned input and output, but intervening processing during the time between acquisition and retrieval is also critical. Indeed, intervening memory reactivation may regulate memory longevity, and a growing body of evidence implicates sleep in changing memory storage. For example, subtle auditory stimulation can be used experimentally to selectively encourage memory reactivation during sleep, which thereby improves learning. Much remains to be elucidated about how learning depends on sleep. Nevertheless, this methodology for modifying memory storage during sleep offers new opportunities for reinforcing learning to enhance clinical outcomes in conjunction with therapies engaged during waking. A variety of such possibilities must now be carefully investigated. Likewise, brain rhythms can be entrained to enhance sleep functions, facilitating further progress in understanding the neurophysiological basis of memory processing during sleep. Ultimately, empirical evidence may reveal the extent to which the way we behave when awake is a function of what our brains do when we are asleep. Through such research efforts, an advanced understanding of memory and sleep may allow us to both make better use of our time asleep and take steps toward better health.
- Memory reactivation
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