Sleep supports cued fear extinction memory consolidation independent of circadian phase

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2016 Jul;132:9-17. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2016.04.007. Epub 2016 Apr 19.


Sleep promotes memory, particularly for declarative learning. However, its role in non-declarative, emotional memories is less well understood. Some studies suggest that sleep may influence fear-related memories, and thus may be an important factor determining the outcome of treatments for emotional disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Here, we investigated the effect of sleep deprivation and time of day on fear extinction memory consolidation. Mice were subjected to a cued Pavlovian fear and extinction paradigm at the beginning of their resting or active phase. Immediate post-extinction learning sleep deprivation for 5h compromised extinction memory when tested 24h after learning. Context-dependent extinction memory recall was completely prevented by sleep-manipulation during the resting phase, while impairment was milder during the active phase and extinction memory retained its context-specificity. Importantly, control experiments excluded confounding factors such as differences in baseline locomotion, fear generalization and stress hormone levels. Together, our findings indicate that post-learning sleep supports cued fear extinction memory consolidation in both circadian phases. The lack of correlation between memory efficacy and sleep time suggests that extinction memory may be influenced by specific sleep events in the early consolidation period.

Keywords: Circadian phases; Fear extinction; Memory consolidation; Sleep; Sleep deprivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Cues
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology