Sleep-dependent declarative memory consolidation--unaffected after blocking NMDA or AMPA receptors but enhanced by NMDA coagonist D-cycloserine

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Dec;38(13):2688-97. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.179. Epub 2013 Jul 26.


Sleep has a pivotal role in the consolidation of declarative memory. The coordinated neuronal replay of information encoded before sleep has been identified as a key process. It is assumed that the repeated reactivation of firing patterns in glutamatergic neuron assemblies translates into plastic synaptic changes underlying the formation of longer-term neuronal representations. Here, we tested the effects of blocking and enhancing glutamatergic neurotransmission during sleep on declarative memory consolidation in humans. We conducted three placebo-controlled, crossover, double-blind studies in which participants learned a word-pair association task. Afterwards, they slept in a sleep laboratory and received glutamatergic modulators. Our first two studies aimed at impairing consolidation by administering the NMDA receptor blocker ketamine and the AMPA receptor blocker caroverine during retention sleep, which, paradoxically, remained unsuccessful, inasmuch as declarative memory performance was unaffected by the treatment. However, in the third study, administration of the NMDA receptor coagonist D-cycloserine (DCS) during retention sleep facilitated consolidation of declarative memory (word pairs) but not consolidation of a procedural control task (finger sequence tapping). Administration of DCS during a wake interval remained without effect on retention of word pairs but improved encoding of numbers. From the overall pattern, we conclude that the consolidation of hippocampus-dependent declarative memory during sleep relies on NMDA-related plastic processes that differ from those processes leading to wake encoding. We speculate that glutamatergic activation during sleep is not only involved in consolidation but also in forgetting of hippocampal memory with both processes being differentially sensitive to DCS and unselective blockade of NMDA and AMPA receptors.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Adult
  • Association Learning / drug effects
  • Cycloserine / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Cycloserine
  • Hydrocortisone