Extra sleep may boost memory for Alzheimer's patients
Based on a study of fruit flies, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis say that having Alzheimer's patients get extra sleep may actually improve their memories.
The scientists conducted their research on three groups of fruit flies because the insects' brains regulate sleep in a way similar to humans. In each of the groups, they disabled a gene to cause different kind of memory problems, but all involved interfering with the ability to create new memories.
Then, they increased the amount of sleep each group of fruit flies got using three different methods. They stimulated brain cells involved in sleep, they increased production of a protein associated with sleep or they administered a drug that fosters sleep. The additional amount of sleep the flies received was equivalent to an additional three to four hours of sleep a day for humans.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Current Biology, found that the additional sleep restored the ability of all three groups of flies to make new memories.
The scientists believe that the extra sleep boosts brain connections that encode important memories.