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Press Release: Alzheimer's disease – plaques impair memory formation during sleep

Alzheimer's patients frequently suffer from sleep disorders, mostly even before they become forgetful. Furthermore, it is known that sleep plays a very important role in memory formation. Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now been able to show for the first time how the pathological changes in the brain act on the information-storing processes during sleep. Using animal models, they were able to decode the exact mechanism and alleviate the impairment with medicinal agents.

22.10.2015

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Image: Image representing the slow waves in the brain, which spread out normally during sleep (left). This process is severely disrupted by the β-amyloid plaques (center). The disruption is reversed by administering a benzodiazepine (right).
Source: Marc Aurel Busche / TUM

The sleep slow waves, also known as slow oscillations, which our brain generates at night, have a particular role in consolidating what we have learned and in shifting memories into long-term storage. These waves are formed via a network of nerve cells in the brain's cortex, and then spread out into other parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. "These waves are a kind of signal through which these areas of the brain send mutual confirmation to say 'I am ready, the exchange of information can go ahead'. Therefore, there is a high degree of coherence between very distant nerve cell networks during sleep", explains SyNergy member Dr. Dr. Marc Aurel Busche, scientist at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at TUM University Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar and TUM Institute of Neuroscience. Together with SyNergy member Prof. Dr. Arthur Konnerth from the Institute of Neurosciences, he headed the study which was published in the journal "Nature Neuroscience".

Press release of the TUM

Vor allem die langsamen Schlafwellen, sogenannte slow oscillations, die unser Gehirn nachts erzeugt, dienen dazu, Gelerntes zu verfestigen und Erinnerungen in den Langzeitspeicher zu verschieben. Die Wellen werden über ein Netzwerk an Nervenzellen in der Hirnrinde gebildet und breiten sich dann in andere Hirnareale wie den Hippocampus aus. „Diese Wellen sind eine Art Signal, mit dem sich die Hirnareale gegenseitig bestätigen 'ich bin bereit, der Informationsaustausch kann losgehen'. Während des Schlafes herrscht daher ein hohes Maß an Kohärenz zwischen weit entfernten Nervenzellnetzwerken”, erklärt SyNergy-Mitglied Dr. Dr. Marc Aurel Busche, Wissenschaftler an der Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie am TUM Klinikum rechts der Isar und am Institut für Neurowissenschaften der TUM. Er leitete gemeinsam mit SyNergy-Mitglied Prof. Dr. Arthur Konnerth vom Institut für Neurowissenschaften die Studie, die in der Fachzeitschrift „Nature Neuroscience” erschien.

Pressemeldung der TUM