Researchers have found that our brain prepares for interpreting everything we may encounter the next day while we sleep. It has been known for some time that our mind commits to memory what we have heard throughout the day while we catch some much-needed shuteye. Furthermore, it consolidates and organizes this information – something similar to a computer’s hard drive, albeit completely organic. But, what exactly does that mean? We can see how our computer’s files are organized, but not the massive filing cabinet that exists in our minds. So what happens while we sleep? Researchers at the National Institutes of Child Health and Development in Bethesda, Maryland have a hunch. In a study prior to theirs, scientists watched as neural signs travelled in the opposite direction than normally while in cells of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a part of our brain vital to the creation of short-term, and long-term memories.
R. Douglas Fields, Ph.D., who headed up the new study, showed how the reverse in direction that the signals take is a type of revising. Essentially, the brain reorganizes the information that we have taken in throughout the day. Then, it gets ride of the information that we do not need – something similar to defragmenting a hard drive on a computer. After this has taken place, the brain is free to take in and interpret everything we see, hear, feel, etc. the next day. Without this process, our minds would consistently be overloaded with information. Perhaps this is somewhat of an explanation for why the world can seem overwhelming after a sleepless night.