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Senior Forgetfulness? Brainwaves May Be The Culprit

Jan 15, 2018 by Comfort Keepers Houston

Timing Is Everything

The study compared two groups of participants: 20 adults in their 20’s, and 32 adults in their 70’s, all healthy. Each participant was given a set of words to learn at night, following which their brain-wave activity was measured using a technique called scale electroencephalography, or EEG. When they woke up the next morning, they’d be tested on the words they learned the night before, undergoing an MRI scan while doing so.

There were two components being focused on: the slow brain waves during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and “spindles.” Researchers found that these spindles, little bursts of electrical energy, must go in sync with these NREM waves in order for us to remember things at night.

In the older participants, the spindles would peak early and thus miss the synchronization with the slow waves needed to solidify new memories.

Not Just Time, But Place

It turns out that what may cause these waves to fall out of sync is atrophy to a certain part of your brain. The more damage to the medial frontal cortex, the less deep, restorative sleep you’ll get at night.

The older participants who had poorly timed spindles and brain waves had atrophy in this section of the brain.

The Potential Remedy

As it turns out, sleep is the new target for potential therapeutic intervention for this issue. It’s more than just your head hitting the pillow like any other night, however – researchers plan to apply electrical stimulation to the frontal lobe in the next phases of the experiment.

These scientists are hypothesizing that this stimulation may boost and “reset” the brain waves needed to retain new memories in the elderly, especially those with dementia. This would therefore help both their learning skills as well as memory.

And while you can’t control how fast or slow these brain waves go, you can put in the efforts to get a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips to get you started, if you aren’t doing these things already:

  • Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed. The bright light acts as a stimulus to your brain to keep you awake.
  • Make the lights dim or completely dark in your bedroom.
  • Take a warm bath or drink a warm glass of herbal tea or milk before bed.
  • Try to stick to a bedtime schedule so that you’ll naturally get tired around the same time each night.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. Sleep issues can lead to a multitude of health issues, or something may be causing your sleep problems.

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