Paradigms of sleep deprivation (SD) and memory testing in rodents (laboratory rats and mice) are here reviewed. The vast majority of these studies have been aimed at understanding the contribution of sleep to cognition, and in particular to memory. Relatively little attention, instead, has been devoted to SD as a challenge to induce a transient memory impairment, and therefore as a tool to test cognitive enhancers in drug discovery. Studies that have accurately described methodological aspects of the SD protocol are first reviewed, followed by procedures to investigate SD-induced impairment of learning and memory consolidation in order to propose SD protocols that could be employed as cognitive challenge. Thus, a platform of knowledge is provided for laboratory protocols that could be used to assess the efficacy of drugs designed to improve memory performance in rodents, including rodent models of neurodegenerative diseases that cause cognitive deficits, and Alzheimer's disease in particular. Issues in the interpretation of such preclinical data and their predictive value for clinical translation are also discussed.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; cognitive impairment; learning; memory; mouse; rat; sleep; sleep-deprivation.