The brain puts the memories warehouse in order while we sleep

on 04 August 2018
the association of memory and brainwaves

While our brain sets about organising our memories as we sleep, the way it does so is contingent on the way it processes our life experience; Hypnosis reorganises our life experience and changes the process of living; in the process . . . . . . . . . . .

The word or name Hypnosis derived from the work of the famous Scottish surgeon, James Braid. Braid was using the phenomena of trance in the mid-1800' (in some sense carrying on from where Mesmer left off some 66 years earlier)! He chose the word Hypnosis to describe and name the success of his new work in India. Braid used hypnosis as an anaesthesic and successfully performed over 260 deep surgical procedures. He chose the term Hypnosis in reference to Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep. He believed that this trance-like state was akin to sleep and while there are similarities, it is not exactly the same state! From a brainwave perspective, the brain is in various phases of REM and NonREM (Theta) brainwave activity but, with the additional component of a higher level of subconscious awareness. While the hypnotic subject is aware of hearing the hypnotists voice, it is not the same as hearing it in the conscious sense of hearing!

When it comes to the need for a life-changing intervention, it is useful to consider what circumstances are at play, that cause issues to arise? The environment we live in, coupled with our own peculiar perspective of what life means to us, is the primary driver of the way in which our brain is wired. Genetics, of course, play a part but life experience has a far more important role in deciding the way we encode and respond to our experience of life. Most of our everyday memory is processed by the hippocampus but, relative to emotion, memories of protection/fear data is stored and processed by the amygdala as well. In fact, the amygdala gets to process vital sensory data ahead of the hippocampus and this can lead to an overreaction in certain situations; it's a shoot first, ask questions later type of processing. We've all had one of those moments when we have overreacted, only to discover we were a little hasty later; c'est la vie!

The specific area of sleep, relating to this study and, in some sense, hypnosis, is NonREM stage 3 (slow wave sleep, aka delta wave). However, in addition to the more popular brainwaves, Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, there is another very important brainwave, PGO (Ponto Geniculo Occipital) waves. These waves originate in the pons, part of the brainstem/hindbrain (the oldest part, evolutionarily speaking), then traverse the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus (the brains sensory processor) and end up in the main part of the visual cortex in the occipital lobe. These waves are involved in the processing of REM/NonREM states, mostly while we sleep but they do have some influence while we are awake. It is known that PGO waves are responsive to auditory stimulation (the hypnotist's voice) and thus, theoretically, create a feedback loop that allows hypnotic suggestions and therapeutic interventions to be inculcated into our subconscious. In a sense, new learning is introduced and then reintroduced in a way that facilitates new memories. When you think about it, isn't that all life difficulty is, the replaying of neural processes that elicit a specific behaviour or feeling?

During the conscious (psychotherapeutic) part of the hypnotherapy session certain ideas, assumptions, suggestions etc. are posed to the client. Overtly most of the time but sometimes these are covertly introduced. Covert in the sense that the hypnotist knows the client does not know the answer because it is part of the subconscious neural processing that occurs outside of consciousness but they ask the question anyway. The question is asked in the sense of expecting the client to know and often the client will answer as if they know but really that is not possible! For example, an old lady of 106 was asked the secret to her long life, she said she has always drunk warm water (at least for as long as she could remember). What she could never know, is how long she would have lived, had she drank the same way as most other people do; a mixture of hot and cold drinks? The reason behind this covert type of fact-finding is to test the client's perspective, values or beliefs etc. For, if the hypnotic intervention is to be successful, it has to be accepted into the mind in a way that is balanced and harmonious. Most of our human difficulty arises out of either a conflict or imbalance between the world that is inside of us and the world outside. Essentially we have to walk the talk, there cannot be true balance and harmony if there is a conflict between these two worldviews.

Much of this conflict arises out of the way our brain processes our experience of life and the unique combination of our genetic pool but that doesn't mean the processing was correct, in fact, it is always subject to reinterpretation or reframing, if it wasn't, how could we ever change? Hypnosis is the perfect tool for change, it allows us (through the uniqueness of our brainwave activity) to rewire the way our brain responds to the same old data. A simple example of this is seen in fonts. Some fonts are easy to read and some are extremely difficult. So, in a font that is easy to read, there is less chance of misinterpretation. Some people speak in easy fonts and some speak in a font that is akin to hieroglyphics. Worse still, for us, is that some of us think in hieroglyphics; we don't even understand our own self-talk or we talk in vague and/or ambiguous ways

My objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into emotional experiences that may actually be happening but for reasons different to which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

During the hours of sleep, the memory performs a cleaning shift. A study led by a Spanish scientist at the University of Cambridge reveals that when we sleep, the neural connections that collect important information are strengthened and those created from irrelevant data are weakened until they get lost.

Throughout the day, people retain a lot of information. The brain creates or modifies the neural connections from these data, elaborating memories. But most of the information we receive is irrelevant and it does not make sense to keep it. In such a case, the brain would be overloaded.

So far there have been two hypotheses about how the sleeping brain modifies the neural connections created throughout the day: while one of them argues that all of them are reinforced during sleep hours, the other maintains that their number is reduced.

A group of scientists from the Ole Paulsen Laboratory, at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), has analyzed the mechanisms underlying the maintenance of memory during the phase of slow wave sleep -- the third phase of sleep without rapid eye movements in the brain during which there is more relaxation and a deeper rest.

"Depending on the experiences of a person and depending on their relevance, the size of their corresponding neuronal connections changes. Those that save important information are smaller and those that store the dispensable are larger," explains Ana González Rueda, the main author of the study and researcher at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge.

According to the expert, in the event that all these links were reinforced equally during sleep, the brain would be saturated by an extreme overexcitement of the nervous system.

In the study, published in the Neuron journal, the researchers stimulated the neuronal connections of mice subjected to a type of anaesthesia that achieves a brain state similar to the slow wave sleep phase in humans.

In the words of González Rueda, the stimulation was carried out 'blindly' because the information contained in each of the links was not known. "We developed a system to follow the evolution of a specific neuronal synapse and thus study what type of activity influences that these are maintained, grow or decrease."

What is the maintenance of neural connections dependent on?

The results show that during slow wave sleep, the largest connections are maintained while the smaller ones are lost. This brain mechanism improves the signal-to-noise ratio -- important information remains and the dispensable is discarded -- and allows the storage of various types of information from one day to the next without losing the previous data. That is, those that have already been considered relevant are kept in that state without having to reinforce them. According to González Rueda, the brain "puts order" during the hours of sleep, discarding the weakest connections to ensure stronger and consolidated memories.

"Although the brain has an extraordinary storage capacity, maintaining connections and neuronal activities requires a lot of energy. It is much more efficient to keep only what is necessary," says the expert. "Even without maintaining all the information we receive, the brain spends 20% of the calories we consume."

This research is a first indication of the electrophysiological mechanism of sleep and opens new horizons thanks to the development of a new way of studying live synaptic plasticity.

The next objective of the experts is to research the consequences of this type of brain activity for the maintenance of certain information and to analyze new phases of sleep. "In addition to the analysis of the slow wave phase, it could be interesting to know what happens in the REM phase, during which dreams occur," concludes González Rueda.

Story Source:

Materials provided by FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and TechnologyNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Ana González-Rueda, Victor Pedrosa, Rachael C. Feord, Claudia Clopath, Ole Paulsen. Activity-Dependent Downscaling of Subthreshold Synaptic Inputs during Slow-Wave-Sleep-like Activity In VivoNeuron, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.01.047