Year of selection 2011
Institution University of Geneva
Every day, an enormous amount of information reaches us, but only a tiny portion is incorporated into our memories. During sleep, recently acquired memories are strengthened through a replay mechanism. Dr. Kinga Igloi is investigating how motivational factors (i.e., rewards) influence the selection of newly memorized information for further consolidation. As lack of sleep is an increasing trend in our fast-paced society, Igloi’s findings could also have major implications for public health.
Doctor Kinga Igloi’s host research group has proven that brain regions activated while learning a task are reactivated during sleep: memory is consolidated and its performance can be improved. They have also demonstrated that the brain circuits involved in sleep-wake regulation exert a strong influence on reward-related brain regions.
However, how motivational factors (i.e., rewards) influence the selection of newly memorized information for further consolidation remains largely unknown. This is what Dr. Igloi is investigating: in a game-like task, individuals are asked to memorize sequences of pictures associated with high and low monetary rewards. They are then asked to take a break: half of them with sleep, half of them without sleep. Finally, their recall performance is tested.
Using state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques, each individual’s brain activity is recorded while they memorize and recall the pictures. The data is then compared to show the effects of sleep and reward on learning and memory. The aim is to demonstrate that motivational relevance is a key factor in information retention, but also to highlight the differential effect of sleep on highly and lowly rewarded memories.
Dr. Igloi’s project integrates two previously disconnected fields of research (sleep and reward) and promotes interdisciplinary work. Her findings could draw attention to the essential role of sleep and help to improve educational or clinical rehabilitation strategies for the most vulnerable populations (i.e., children and psychiatric patients). Lack of sleep is an increasing trend in our fast-paced society and can have disastrous consequences not only for an individual’s health (from tiredness to altered risk-taking behaviors) but also for society as a whole (socioeconomic and public safety consequences). For these reasons, Dr. Igloi’s findings could also have major implications for public health.
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