Light sleep versus slow wave sleep in memory consolidation: a question of global versus local processes?

Trends Neurosci. 2014 Jan;37(1):10-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Nov 7.


Sleep is strongly involved in memory consolidation, but its role remains unclear. 'Sleep replay', the active potentiation of relevant synaptic connections via reactivation of patterns of network activity that occurred during previous experience, has received considerable attention. Alternatively, sleep has been suggested to regulate synaptic weights homeostatically and nonspecifically, thereby improving the signal:noise ratio of memory traces. Here, we reconcile these theories by highlighting the distinction between light and deep nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Specifically, we draw on recent studies to suggest a link between light NREM and active potentiation, and between deep NREM and homeostatic regulation. This framework could serve as a key for interpreting the physiology of sleep stages and reconciling inconsistencies in terminology in this field.

Keywords: SWR; downscaling; memory consolidation; replay; sleep; sleep stages; spindles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

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