On this week’s The Sci-Files, your hosts Chelsie and Danny interview Abdulrahman Alharthi, Erin Sawyer, and Kaylie Williams.
Abdulrahman, Erin, and Kaylie are all undergraduates at MSU and work as research assistants in Dr. Kimberly Fenn’s Sleep and Learning Lab. Abdulrahman Alharthi is a 4th-year undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Laboratory Science with a concentration in Clinical Chemistry and minor in Leadership in Integrated Learning. Erin Sawyer is a 2nd-year undergraduate student and Alumni Distinguished scholar in the Honors College studying Psychology and Data Science, with minors in Social Science Quantitative Data Analysis and Japanese. Kaylie Williams is a 4th-year undergraduate student pursuing a major in Psychology with minors in Health Promotion and Cognitive Science. This work was conducted under the direction of Elle Wernette, a 4th-year graduate student.
In this episode, the three undergraduates discuss a line of research that focuses on the relationship between sleep and memory. After memories are first formed, or encoded, they remain in a vulnerable state, subject to decay or distortion. Consolidation processes help strengthen memories against these vulnerabilities, and some of these processes take place during sleep. Prior research has shown that sleep, specifically slow-wave sleep, consolidates memory for information that is actively studied, or intentionally encoded. They recently found that sleep also consolidates some memories that are incidentally encoded, which are memories that are formed when an individual works with but does not actively try to remember information. Their data suggested that the extent to which memory is consolidated during sleep may be based on the strength of the memory traces. To further explore this, they investigated the hypothesis that sleep consolidates strong, but not weak, memories after incidental encoding. They also sought to determine which components of sleep contribute to this mnemonic benefit.
These results give them insight into the relationship between sleep and memory consolidation, showing that sleep may consolidate more information than was previously thought. Sleep not only helps us remember the information we are intentionally trying to remember, but also seems to help us remember useful information that we encounter in passing.
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