Summary of Making Room for New Memories

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When you go to a new place, special neuronal cells in the hippocampus – aptly named place cells – are in charge of remembering it. Recent monitoring of neuronal activity suggests that sleep plays a major role in clearing older spatial memories out of the hippocampus to make room for new ones. During slow-wave sleep, these old memories get transferred to the neocortex by an, as yet, unclear mechanism. If you ever felt the need to justify why you’re going to bed early, getAbstract recommends this article for you.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How spatial memories are stored in the hippocampus,
  • Why during sleep, old memories are removed from the hippocampus and
  • How these memories are transferred to the neocortex for consolidation.

About the Author

Andreas Draguhn is at the Institute for Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Heidelberg.



Spatial memories are made in the hippocampus.

Special neurons in your hippocampus called place cells “fire” when you pass through a particular place in your environment relative to familiar external objects. Further exploring the place strengthens the spatial memory. Such memories are often replayed during sleep, meaning that the neurons exhibit the same activity during slow-wave sleep as when the memories were initially formed. Scientists have long known that memory stabilization happens during this deep, non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep state. Recent monitoring of neuronal activity suggests that part of this stabilization involves clearing older memories out of the hippocampus to make room for new ones. This consolidation is essential because we go to a lot of new places, every day, and the hippocampus has limited storage capacity.  

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