Washington: Researchers have identified the sleep mechanism that enables the brain to consolidate emotional memory and found that a popular prescription sleep aid heightens the recollection of and response to negative memories.

The findings have implications for individuals suffering from insomnia related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders who are prescribed zolpidem (Ambien) to help them sleep.
Sara C. Mednick, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, and UC San Diego psychologists Erik J. Kaestner and John T. Wixted determined that a sleep feature known as sleep spindles - bursts of brain activity that last for a second or less during a specific stage of sleep - are important for emotional memory.

Research Mednick published earlier this year demonstrated the critical role that sleep spindles play in consolidating information from short-term to long-term memory in the hippocampus, located in the cerebral cortex of the brain.

Zolpidem enhanced the process, a discovery that could lead to new sleep therapies to improve memory for aging adults and those with dementia, Alzheimer's and schizophrenia. It was the first study to show that sleep can be manipulated with pharmacology to improve memory.

(Agencies)

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