Take a nap to improve your hippocampus

hippocampus
Seahorse

In your brain, one of the most vital parts is the hippocampus. ἱππόκαμπος, “seahorse” from ἵππος hippos, “horse” and κάμπος kampos, “sea monster” (source: Wikepedia)

Hippocampus
Hippocampus drawing by Camillo Golgi

Your hippocampus is a part of your brain that is partly responsible for regulating emotions and for your long-term memory. It also plays a big part in spacial orientation. William Scoville and Brenda Milner discovered the function of the hippocampus in long-term memory when a patient they described was operated on the hippocampus to relieve his epileptic seizures. Once the operation was finished, the patient had an inability to form new memories.

In Germany, Emma Bridger and Axel Mecklinger wanted to find out what the role of taking a nap is on the hippocampus. Specifically, they wanted to found out the role of naps for hippocampus-dependent associative memory (AM) and hippocampus-independent item memory (IM).

A baseline was set by testing the AM and IM memory before the experiment by learing single words and word pairs. One group was allowed to nap for  90 minutes (the time it takes to complete a sleep cycle). The other group was allowed to watch dvd’s.

Finally both groups had to take the word memory test again. The group that was allowed not to nap had decreased scores for both memory tests: the hippocampus associated memory and for the independent item memory test.

Read more about the test here.

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