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Sleep may strengthen our immune system
The following article is edited from an Opinion article published September 29 in Cell: Trends in Neurosciences, Neuroimmunology.
Studies in humans have shown that long-term increases in memory T cells are associated with deep slow-wave sleep on the nights after vaccination. Taken together, the findings support the view that slow-wave sleep contributes to formation of long-term memory of abstract or generalized information. Slow-wave sleep appears to lead to behavioral and immunological responses. The next obvious implication is that sleep deprivation could put your body at risk.
Born goes on to clarify: "While it has been known for a long time that sleep supports long-term memory formation in the psychological domain, the idea that long-term memory formation is a function of effective sleep in all organismic systems is - in our view - entirely new.
"If we didn't sleep, then the immune system might focus on the wrong parts of the pathogen. For example, many viruses can easily mutate some parts of their proteins to escape from immune responses. If too few antigen-recognizing cells [the cells that present the fragments to T cells] are available, then they might all be needed to fight off the pathogen. In addition, there is evidence that hormones released during sleep benefit the crosstalk between antigen-presenting and antigen-recognizing cells, and some of these important hormones could be lacking without sleep."
Born says that future research should examine what information is selected for storage in long-term memory during sleep, and how this selection is achieved. In the end, this research could have important clinical implications.
"In order to design effective vaccines against HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, which are based on immunological memory, the correct memory model must be available," adds Born. "It is our hope that by comparing the concepts of neuronal and immunological memory, a model of immunological memory can be developed...and serves as a helpful basis for vaccine development."
Sleep benefits the consolidation of psychological and immunological memory.
In the psychological domain, neuronal reactivation of declarative memory during sleep promotes the redistribution of representations initially stored in hippocampal circuitry towards the neocortex and striatum for long-term storage.
In the immunological domain, sleep promotes the redistribution of antigenic memories initially held by antigen-presenting cells, to persisting T cells serving as a long-term store.
In both systems, the consolidation of memory is mediated by slow-wave sleep that suppresses cholinergic and cortisol activity, and enhances proinflammatory signals.
Long-term memory formation in both systems is associated with information reduction by abstracting gist memory.
This work was primarily supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
Trends in Neurosciences, Westermann et al.: "System Consolidation during Sleep--A Common Principle Underlying Psychological and Immunological Memory Formation" http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2015.07.007
Trends in Neurosciences, published by Cell Press, is a monthly review journal that brings together research covering all disciplines of the neurosciences, allowing researchers, students, and teachers to keep up with the latest developments, insights, and future directions in the field. For more information, please visit http://www.cell.com/trends/neurosciences. To receive media alerts for this or other Cell Press journals, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.