Offline persistence of memory-related cerebral activity during active wakefulness

PLoS Biol. 2006 Apr;4(4):e100. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040100. Epub 2006 Mar 28.


Much remains to be discovered about the fate of recent memories in the human brain. Several studies have reported the reactivation of learning-related cerebral activity during post-training sleep, suggesting that sleep plays a role in the offline processing and consolidation of memory. However, little is known about how new information is maintained and processed during post-training wakefulness before sleep, while the brain is actively engaged in other cognitive activities. We show, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, that brain activity elicited during a new learning episode modulates brain responses to an unrelated cognitive task, during the waking period following the end of training. This post-training activity evolves in learning-related cerebral structures, in which functional connections with other brain regions are gradually established or reinforced. It also correlates with behavioral performance. These processes follow a different time course for hippocampus-dependent and hippocampus-independent memories. Our experimental approach allowed the characterization of the offline evolution of the cerebral correlates of recent memories, without the confounding effect of concurrent practice of the learned material. Results indicate that the human brain has already extensively processed recent memories during the first hours of post-training wakefulness, even when simultaneously coping with unrelated cognitive demands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology*