Researchers from the University of Michigan provide some answers with their new study found that sleep deprivation interferes with the rhythm of neuronal firing in a region of the hippocampus called CA1. The hippocampus is the brain structure responsible for the formation of long-term memories.
Study leader Nicolette Ognjanovski, of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Michigan, and colleagues found that disrupting the rhythm of neuronal firing, or oscillations, in the CA1 of mice interfered with memory formation.
First, the researchers removed mice from their home and placed them in a new environment. After the rodents had explored their new surroundings for a while, the researchers gave them a mild foot shock. The mice were then returned to their original environment to rest.
On assessing the hippocampal activity of the mice, the researchers found that rodents that had sufficient sleep after the learning task demonstrated stronger sleep-related oscillations in the CA1 region of the hippocampus, compared with sleep-deprived mice.