September 14, 2009

Sleep helps reduce errors in memory

Michigan State University researchers say sleep may reduce mistakes in memory for both the young and the old.

Kimberly Fenn, an assistant professor of psychology, says the findings have practical implications for everyone from students flubbing multiple choice tests to senior citizens confusing their medications.

It's easy to muddle things in your mind, Fenn says in a statement. This research suggests that after sleep you're better able to tease apart the incorrect aspect of that memory.

Fenn and colleagues at the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis studied the presence of false memory in groups of college students. Previous research has shown that sleep improves memory, but this study address errors in memory, Fenn says.

Study participants were exposed to lists of words and then, 12 hours later, exposed to individual words and asked to identify which words they had seen or heard in the earlier session. Student had different levels of sleep.

The study, published in the journal Learning & Memory, found the students who had slept had fewer problems with false memory -- choosing fewer incorrect words.