Conversely, lack of sleep causes rogue proteins to build up in the eye increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, published in Science, found that when mice learned they formed new dendritic spines — tiny structures that project from the end of nerve cells and help pass electric signals from one neuron to another — but only when they were allowed to sleep. This didn’t happen to the poor mice who were kept awake!
Professor Wen-Biao Gan, of New York University, said: “We have known for a long time sleep plays an important role in learning and memory. If you do not sleep well you will not learn well. Here we have shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory.”