When you sleep, your brain is busy storing and consolidating things you learned that day, stuff you’ll need in your memory toolkit tomorrow, next week, or next year.
For many people, especially those with neurological conditions, memory impairment can be a debilitating symptom that affects every-day life in profound ways.
For the first time, UNC School of Medicine scientists report using transcranial alternating current stimulation, or tACS, to target a specific kind of brain activity during sleep and strengthen memory in healthy people.
The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, offer a non-invasive method to potentially help millions of people with conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder.
For years, researchers have recorded electrical brain activity that oscillates or alternates during sleep; they present as waves on an electroencephalogram (EEG). These waves are called sleep spindles, and scientists have suspected their involvement in cataloging and storing memories as we sleep.