The human brain is like a tape recorder. It remembers most things but not all of them. However, sometimes, our brain happens to remember incidents that didn’t really take place. Researchers call this phenomenon as ‘False Memory’. This is the reason why sometimes even a testimony given by an eyewitness can be misleading!
But the real question is that where do these false memories come from? When something didn’t happen, how can we remember it? Studies conducted previously were of the opinion that much of these false memories were a result of sleep. Our sleep plays a very important role in the formation of these false memories. The particular aspect of sleep responsible for this is sleep spindles.
According to the journal Neuropsychologia, sleep spindles involve quick bursts of brain activity that take place during sleep and it mostly takes place when one is in light sleep, characterized by no eye movement and a slowed heart rate.
A research was conducted at a university to check the authenticity of sleep spindles. 32 non-caffeinated students were recruited for the same. The students were shown some words, they were then hooked to a polysomnography device in order to monitor their activity while they slept. The device recorded all the activity while they slept. The group was then shown another set of words with some old and some new words and the group did show familiarity to some words which were not shown earlier. This confirmed the presence of false memories.
Another study was conducted to confirm the effect of sleep spindles. Words were flashed on a screen either far at the right or to the far left. They were flashed so fast that you would miss a word if you just blinked. This research studied the left and right side of the brain and it was found that right hemisphere of the brain recorded greater number of sleep spindles as compared to the left. The right side of our brain is more dominant in creating false memories during the time a person sleeps.
Researchers are of the opinion that sleep spindles seem to play a very important role in keeping the short-term and long-term memories in the brain. This was apparently the first study that was conducted to confirm that sleep spindles created false memories while a person slept. The brain puts in lot of effort to decipher which information to keep and which to discard, stated the Centre for Sleep.
Nothing conclusive can be said about the studied conducted since the number of participants was small. Researchers hope to conduct the experiment again with more participants and increased number of naps.