Hippocampal sharp wave-ripples (SPW-Rs) and associated place-cell reactivations are crucial for spatial memory consolidation during sleep and rest. However, it remains unclear how learning and consolidation requirements influence and regulate subsequent SPW-R activity. Indeed, SPW-R activity has been observed not only following complex behavioral tasks, but also after random foraging in familiar environments, despite markedly different learning requirements. Because transient increases in SPW-R rates have been reported following training on memory tasks, we hypothesized that SPW-R activity following learning (but not routine behavior) could involve specific regulatory processes related to ongoing consolidation. Interfering with ripples would then result in a dynamic compensatory response only when initial memory traces required consolidation. Here we trained rats on a spatial memory task, and showed that subsequent sleep periods where ripple activity was perturbed by timed electrical stimulation were indeed characterized by increased SPW-R occurrence rates compared with control sleep periods where stimulations were slightly delayed in time and did not interfere with ripples. Importantly, this did not occur following random foraging in a familiar environment. We next showed that this dynamic response was abolished following injection of an NMDA receptor blocker (MK-801) before, but not after training. Our results indicate that NMDA receptor-dependent processes occurring during learning, such as network "tagging" and plastic changes, regulate subsequent ripple-mediated consolidation of spatial memory during sleep.
Keywords: consolidation; hippocampus; learning; memory; regulation; ripples.