A new study from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore reveals evidence that the less an older person sleeps, the faster their brain is aging. The study, says the research team, may be a foundation for further investigation into sleep loss and potential cognitive decline and mental disorders such as dementia.

"Our findings relate short sleep to a marker of brain aging," said Dr June Lo, the lead author and a Duke-NUS Research Fellow, a press release on the study. "Work done elsewhere suggests that seven hours a day(2) for adults seems to be the sweet spot for optimal performance on computer based cognitive tests. In coming years we hope to determine what's good for cardio-metabolic and long term brain health too," added Professor Michael Chee, senior author and director of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke-NUS.

The Duke-NUS study examined the data of 66 older Chinese adults and participants underwent structural MRI brain scans measuring brain volume and neuropsychological assessments testing cognitive function every two years. Researchers tracked their sleep duration as well. Those who slept fewer hours showed evidence of faster ventricle enlargement and decline in cognitive performance, states the release.

The news comes on the heels of two other recent studies involving sleep and mental capabilities.

One new study reveals it may be easiest to learn a second language if you incorporate some verbal cuing during a snooze right after studying.

"Reactivating memories during sleep by re-exposure to associated memory cues (e.g., odors or sounds) improves memory consolidation," states the study abstract.

A group of 60 German-speaking people were studied as part of an effort to learn new Dutch words. The group re-exposed to verbal recitation of the words during sleep show greater memory retention on testing after the nap.

"Our method is easy to use in daily life and can be adopted by anyone," says study director Bjorn Rasch.

An earlier study in June, as reported by Tech Times, reveals evidence that sleep can play into improved memory. Sleep, according to the researchers, strengthens the neural connections in the brain.

"But what's the underlying physical mechanism responsible for this phenomenon? Here we've shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory," says senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, professor of neuroscience and physiology and a member of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center.

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