Curiosity changes brain to enhance learning and memory

States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit
Matthias J. Gruber, Bernard D. Gelman, Charan Ranganath
Neuron , Volume 84 , Issue 2 , 486 - 496 

People find it easier to learn about topics that interest them, but little is known about the mechanisms by which intrinsic motivational states affect learning. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how curiosity (intrinsic motivation to learn) influences memory. In both immediate and one-day-delayed memory tests, participants showed improved memory for information that they were curious about and for incidental material learned during states of high curiosity. Functional magnetic resonance imaging results revealed that activity in the midbrain and the nucleus accumbens was enhanced during states of high curiosity. Importantly, individual variability in curiosity-driven memory benefits for incidental material was supported by anticipatory activity in the midbrain and hippocampus and by functional connectivity between these regions. These findings suggest a link between the mechanisms supporting extrinsic reward motivation and intrinsic curiosity and highlight the importance of stimulating curiosity to create more effective learning experiences.

Sleep deprivation dynamically alters brain connectivity

The brain functional connectome is robustly altered by lack of sleep.
Kaufmann T, Elvsåshagen T, Alnæs D, Zak N, Pedersen P, Norbom LB, Quraishi SH, Tagliazucchi E, Laufs H, Bjørnerud A, Malt UF, Andreassen OA, Roussos E, Duff EP, Smith SM, Groote IR, Westlye LT.
Neuroimage. 2015 Dec 19

Sleep is a universal phenomenon necessary for maintaining homeostasis and function across a range of organs. Lack of sleep has severe health-related consequences affecting whole-body functioning, yet no other organ is as severely affected as the brain. The neurophysiological mechanisms underlying these deficits are poorly understood. Here, we characterize the dynamic changes in brain connectivity profiles inflicted by sleep deprivation and how they deviate from regular daily variability. To this end, we obtained functional magnetic resonance imaging data from 60 young, adult male participants, scanned in the morning and evening of the same day and again the following morning. 41 participants underwent total sleep deprivation before the third scan, whereas the remainder had another night of regular sleep. Sleep deprivation strongly altered the connectivity of several resting-state networks, including dorsal attention, default mode, and hippocampal networks. Multivariate classification based on connectivity profiles predicted deprivation state with high accuracy, corroborating the robustness of the findings on an individual level. Finally, correlation analysis suggested that morning-to-evening connectivity changes were reverted by sleep (control group) - a pattern which did not occur after deprivation. We conclude that both, a day of waking and a night of sleep deprivation dynamically alter the brain functional connectome.