A new study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may offer some insight on how the brain organizes information for navigating the real world. It’s long been believed that sleep deprivation impacts individuals’ ability to consolidate and integrate memories from a memory one must explicitly recall to a memory which is completely integrated, or automatic. Think of when you’re traveling, or move to a new town: for a while, you have to think carefully about your routes and directions, but after a while they become integrated, and moving through the environment requires much less conscious thought.
To test the theory of how sleep impacts memory integration, Belgian researchers gave volunteers place-finding goals in the virtual cityscape in the video game Duke Nukem, mapping participants’ brains with MRI scans as they found landmarks and navigated the virtual environment.
Scans showed that the brain’s hippocampus was most active when the gamers had to retrieve information and memories related to reaching their destination
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