Effects of early and late nocturnal sleep on priming and spatial memory

Psychophysiology. 1999 Sep;36(5):571-82.


A wordstem priming task (nondeclarative memory), and a mental spatial rotation task (declarative memory) were presented to subjects of an experimental "sleep" group (n = 11) and of a "wake" control group (n = 10). Repetition priming effects and recall of spatial memory were tested after 3-hr retention intervals, which followed learning and were placed either in the early or in the late half of the night. Sleep group subjects slept during the retention intervals while subjects of the wake group stayed awake. As expected, early retention sleep was dominated by slow wave sleep (SWS), whereas rapid eye movement (REM) sleep prevailed during late retention sleep. After early retention sleep, recall of spatial memory was superior to that after late retention sleep (p < 0.01), and also to that after retention intervals of wakefulness (p < 0.05). In contrast, priming was more effective after late than early retention sleep (p < 0.05). It appears that early sleep dominated by SWS facilitates consolidation of declarative memory whereas late sleep dominated by REM sleep facilitates consolidation of nondeclarative memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Phonetics
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*