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Age-related brain deterioration contributes to poor sleep study

Margaret Jack  By Margaret Jack   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Last updated: Wednesday 6th February 2013

A new study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley has found a link between age-related brain deterioration and poor sleep.

The researchers studied 18 adults with the average age of 20 and 15 other adults with an average age of 72. One night before going to bed the participants had to try memorising 120 pairs of words consisting of one familiar word such as “crook” and a nonsense word like “engarleys” so that it would make it harder to recall. The participants were also monitored when they slept; researchers measured their brain waves and the next morning they were tested on the word pairings.

The results showed that the older subjects didn’t fare as well as the younger participants as they forgot 55% more words. The researchers found that the older group got around 75% less deep sleep than the other participant group which was the reason why they couldn’t remember as many words due to long-term-memory storage depending on the slow waves generated by deep sleep.

Usually new memories are stored in the hippocampus temporarily and then they move to the prefrontal cortex where they cemented into the brain. However brain scans during the morning of the study found that the younger group were replying on the prefrontal cortex to recall the word and the older group were using the hippocampus.

The conclusion of the study was the older patients issues with sleep and consequently the memory problems were down to the natural deterioration of the ageing brain.

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