Scientists from Harvard Medical School have produced further evidence linking sleep to learning and memory. Stickgold et al (Nature Neurosci 2000 3:1237-1238) suggest that a good night's sleep within 30 hours of trying to remember a new task is directly linked to effective long-term recall.

The research, published in December Nature Neuroscience, assessed 24 volunteers using a visual discrimination task in which they were asked to identify the orientation of diagonal lines on a computer screen. Half the volunteers were then kept awake all night, while the other half were allowed a night's sleep. Both groups were then allowed to sleep normally on the following two nights, in order to eliminate the effects of fatigue. The visual discrimination task was then repeated. The group that had slept on the first night showed a marked improvement in performance, whereas the sleep-deprived group showed no improvement, despite having had...

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