Sleep in Humans Stabilizes Pattern Separation Performance

J Neurosci. 2017 Dec 13;37(50):12238-12246. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1189-17.2017. Epub 2017 Nov 8.


Replay of hippocampal neural representations during sleep is thought to promote systems consolidation of declarative memory. How this reprocessing of memory during sleep affects the hippocampal representation itself, is unclear. Here we tested hippocampal stimulus processing (i.e., pattern separation) before and after periods of sleep and wakefulness in humans (female and male participants). Pattern separation deteriorated across the wake period but remained stable across sleep (p = 0.013) with this sleep-wake difference being most pronounced for stimuli with low similarity to targets (p = 0.006). Stimuli with the highest similarity showed a reversed pattern with reduced pattern separation performance after sleep (p = 0.038). Pattern separation performance was positively correlated with sleep spindle density, slow oscillation density, and theta power phase-locked to slow oscillations. Sleep, presumably by neural memory replay, shapes hippocampal representations and enhances computations of pattern separation to subsequent presentation of similar stimuli.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The consolidation of hippocampus-dependent memories is causally related to reactivation during sleep of previously encoded representations. Here, we show that reactivation-based consolidation processes during sleep shape the hippocampal representation itself. We studied the effect of sleep and wakefulness on pattern separation (i.e., orthogonalization of similar representations) and completion performance (i.e., recall of a memory in light of noisy input) that are essential cognitive elements of encoding and retrieval of information by the hippocampus. Our results demonstrate that pattern separation was stabilized after sleep but diminished after wakefulness. We further showed that pattern separation was related to EEG oscillatory parameters of non-REM sleep serving as markers of sleep-dependent memory consolidation and hippocampal reactivation.

Keywords: consolidation; hippocampus; memory; pattern separation; sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Clocks
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Polysomnography
  • Random Allocation
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology
  • Young Adult