PerspectiveNeuroscience

Linking the need to sleep with synaptic function

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Science  11 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6462, pp. 189-190
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay5304

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Summary

Sleep is essential for the brain: Learning and memory benefit from sleep, whereas sleep loss causes cognitive impairment that can only be reversed by sleep (1, 2). The pressure for sleep increases with time spent awake, and sleep need also depends on the richness of the waking experience and the amount of learning (1, 3). Findings suggest that the restorative effects of sleep are linked to its ability to affect neuronal activity and synaptic plasticity, the capacity to change structure and function based on experience. Synapses are the foundation of neuronal plasticity; in an adult brain, synapses can change their strength and size within minutes or hours in response to new experience and learning (4). On pages 200 and 201 of this issue, Noya et al. (5) and Brüning et al. (6), respectively, provide evidence that sleep need and synaptic function are tightly linked.

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