To forget something? Caffeine can help the memory on the jumps. (Photo: stockyimages / iStock)
Reading aloud Sleep deprivation increases the risk of people distorting facts and creating false memories. For these false memories is not a faulty storage of information, but the inaccurate retrieval of information under sleep deprivation, researchers have found around Susanne Diekelmann from the University of Lübeck. After all, if people can catch up on their sleep and are asked about their memories in a well-rested state, the risk of false memories decreases again. A good cup of coffee has a similar positive effect on correct memory.

The researchers gave volunteers a word list for learning, such as "white, " "dark, " "cat, " and "night." The words have a strong association with "black, " but they were not in the list. After a well-slept or through-night, the subjects should remember. The fatigued participants in the test were far more likely to attribute the word "black" to the list than those who had fallen asleep.

In another part of the experiment, the researchers were able to show that this false memory is not caused by defective storage processes in the brain due to lack of sleep, but that in the tired state, the subjects can not retrieve the information correctly from memory. After all, if the tired participants were able to sleep well one more night, they would later be able to remember the word list as well as those who were not deprived of sleep in a rested state.

The researchers now wondered if outside influences could correct the erroneous retrieval of memory content - say, a cup of coffee. The overtired group was therefore allowed to drink coffee in another series of experiments one hour before the query of the word list. The false memories then went back. The reproduction of correct or false reminders therefore also depends on the current state of a respondent. This could play an important role in special situations, such as witness interviews, explain the researchers.

Source: Nature, online service, DOI: 10.1038 / news.2008.953 Display

ddp / science.de - Martin Schäfer

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