Hello! I’m a student of Dr. Myers here at the lovely University of Minnesota Morris and will be blogging weekly for the next few months about whatever I find or dream up that relates to Neurobiology.
This week I suppose the most interesting finding I have comes from 89.3 “The Current,” an off-branch of the popular MPR radio station. There is a program called “Radio Lab,” in which a couple show hosts review scientific work done in broad categories while they converse and explore the work of scientists who actually did the research. One of the categories for the week was on sleep; why do we need it? What does it really do? The show hosts revealed that very little research has been done in this field (despite its necessity to all living things) except for Dr. Allan Pack, a biologist at the University of Pensylvania.
Pack has been looking at sleep from a cellular level and has found some interesting activity with proteins in cells inside the brain. He found that when we don’t sleep, proteins fold irregularly and lose much of their primary functions. However, when we sleep, the proteins are unfolded and allowed to work normally. Even more intruiging is that the folding of these proteins might be correlated to memory. For instance, when you memorize or think about a difficult math problem or guitar riff, you fold proteins. But that means that when you look at the grass and use your brain to determine the grass’s color and shape you are folding proteins as well.
When we sleep this unfolding of proteins allows some of the garbage memory, such as shape and color of grass, to be disposed of in the unfolding of proteins, which also amplifies the things we truly scrutinized all day on such as the math problems or guitar riff as these proteins are left folded. This may be why when you’re studying one day on a tough problem and can’t quite get it but go to bed and look at it again the next, the problem sometimes comes much easier. I thought that this was a cool idea, and well worth looking into.
If anyone finds any of this interesting and does some further (or actual) research on the topic, you should respond and we can exchange ideas. But untill that day, take it easy and God bless.