Memory consolidation, the process by which information is stored following training, consists of synaptic consolidation and systems consolidation. It is widely acknowledged that sleep deprivation has a profound effect on synaptic consolidation, particularly for memories that require the hippocampus. It is unclear, however, which of the many molecular changes associated with sleep deprivation directly contribute to memory deficits. In this review, we highlight recent studies showing that sleep deprivation impairs hippocampal cAMP and mTOR signaling, and ultimately causes spine loss in CA1 neurons in a cofilin-dependent fashion. Reversing these molecular alterations made memory consolidation resistant to the negative impact of sleep deprivation. Together, these studies have started to identify the molecular underpinnings by which sleep deprivation impairs synaptic consolidation.
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