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18 October 2012

Is your brain working as you nap?

People who say they think better after having a nap may now have evidence to support their claim.

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People who say they think better after having a nap may now have evidence to support their claim.

A study of 15 people found that when they rested, the right hemisphere of their brains talked more to itself and to the left hemisphere than the left hemisphere communicated with itself and with the right hemisphere.

This was true in both right- and left-handed people, even though right-handed people use their left hemisphere to a greater degree and left-handed people rely more on their right hemisphere.

The findings suggest that the right hemisphere "is doing important things in the resting state that we don't yet understand," Andrei Medvedev, an assistant professor in the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging at Georgetown University Medical Center, said in a center news release.

Activities undertaken by the right hemisphere during rest could be daydreaming or processing and storing previously acquired information.

Right side needs attention

"The brain could be doing some helpful housecleaning, classifying data, consolidating memories," Medvedev said. "That could explain the power of napping. But we just don't know yet the relative roles of both hemispheres in those processes and whether the power nap might benefit righties more than lefties."

The findings, scheduled for presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, suggest that brain researchers should start paying more attention to the right hemisphere, Medvedev said.

"Most brain theories emphasize the dominance of the left hemisphere especially in right-handed individuals, and that describes the population of participants in these studies," Medvedev noted. "Our study suggests that looking at only the left hemisphere prevents us from a truer understanding of brain function."

The data and conclusions of research presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

(HealthDay, October 2012)

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