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It is also known that dreams in NREM sleep are fragmentary, while REM dreams are more often coherent and “cinematic”.Researchers have identified adenosine build-up as a reason sleep deprivation affects memory formation.The sleeping person experiences this memory transfer and consolidation at least partly as dreams.The content of dreams is beyond the scope of Tuck (we put no stock in “dream interpretation”), but it is clear that the person’s activities the previous day play a big part in what the dreams are about.As scientists attempt to uncover the electrophysiological mechanisms of how memory is stored and retrieved, a term seen in the literature is “cherry-picking”.This is how scientists describe the brain’s process of selecting memories and making them long-lasting during sleep.EEG studies find that after a cognitively taxing day, length of REM periods often increase, suggesting that the brain is “resting” from learning during REM.The increase in REM appears most strikingly after the mind is asked to acquire more declarative memory (remember more facts).
More recent investigation casts doubt on those earlier assertions.This explains why short-term amnesia can happen (memory from the last 12 hours or so is wiped) without affecting long-term memories. Voss wrote an article in 2004 laying out their hypothesis that pruning of available memory happens at night as the brain shuffles and adopts what it will put into declarative memory.“Consolidation” means some neural circuits are strengthened and others are erased and or let go so that new memories can form. Declarative memory is defined here as the ability to recall specific facts and events, as opposed to background knowledge and emotions.For “declarative memory” sleep also seems critical to long-term retention.For simpler conditioning – relating associations between stimuli or a response to a stimulus, the evidence is not as strong, but sleep still seems beneficial for that type of memory.
And that when it comes to an individual’s understanding of the world “sleep is essentially a nightly session of psychotherapy” in the words of these Northwestern University scientists (This analogy may not be perfect.) The communication between the hippocampus and neocortex allows new data learned the previous day to “update” understanding in the neocortex.