Sleep to remember

Neuroscientist. 2006 Oct;12(5):410-24. doi: 10.1177/1073858406292647.


Recently, compelling evidence has accumulated that links sleep to learning and memory. Sleep has been identified as a state that optimizes the consolidation of newly acquired information in memory. Consolidation is an active process that is presumed to rely on the covert reactivation and reorganization of newly encoded representations. Hippocampus-dependent memories benefit primarily from slow-wave sleep (SWS), whereas memories not depending on the hippocampus show greater gains over periods containing high amounts of rapid eye movement sleep. One way sleep does this is by establishing different patterns of neurotransmitters and neurohormone secretion between sleep stages. Another central role for consolidating memories is played by the slow oscillation, that is, the oscillating field potential change dominating SWS. The emergence of slow oscillations in neocortical networks depends on the prior use of these networks for encoding of information. Via efferent pathways, they synchronize the occurrence of sharp wave ripples accompanying memory reactivations in the hippocampus with thalamocortical spindle activity. Thus, hippocampal memories are fed back into neocortical networks at a time when these networks are depolarized and, because of concurrent spindle activity, can most sensitively react to these inputs with plastic changes underlying the formation of long-term memory representations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*