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Posted: January 15, 2008

Afternoon Nap May Help Long-Term Memory

A 90-minute daytime nap helps speed up the process of retaining our long-term memories, a recent Israeli study finds.
"The results of this research suggest the possibility that it is possible to speed up memory consolidation, and in the future, we may be able to do it artificially," said Professor Avi Karni of the Center for Brain and Behavior Research at the University of Haifa in Israel.
Long-term memory is defined as a permanent memory that doesn't disappear or that disappears after many years. This part of our memory is divided into two types -- memories of things that happened and memories of how to perform certain tasks.
In this new research, it was revealed that a daytime nap changes the course of consolidating these memories in the brain. However, the research, published in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience, offered no reasons for the memory enhancement.
To arrive at the study’s conclusion, two groups of participants in the study practiced a repeated motor activity, which consisted of bringing the thumb and a finger together at a specific sequence. The research examined the "how" aspect of memory in the participants' ability to perform the task quickly and in the correct sequence. One of the groups was allowed to nap for an hour and a half after learning the task while the other group stayed awake.
The group that slept in the afternoon showed a distinct improvement in their task performance by that evening, as opposed to the group that stayed awake, which did not exhibit any improvement. Following an entire night's sleep, both groups exhibited the same skill level.
"This part of the research showed that a daytime nap speeds up performance improvement in the brain. After a night's sleep the two groups were at the same level, but the group that slept in the afternoon improved much faster than the group that stayed awake," said Karni.
(Article courtesy of

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