The Roles of Cortical Slow Waves in Synaptic Plasticity and Memory Consolidation

Front Neural Circuits. 2017 Nov 22;11:92. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2017.00092. eCollection 2017.


Sleep plays important roles in sensory and motor memory consolidation. Sleep oscillations, reflecting neural population activity, involve the reactivation of learning-related neurons and regulate synaptic strength and, thereby affect memory consolidation. Among sleep oscillations, slow waves (0.5-4 Hz) are closely associated with memory consolidation. For example, slow-wave power is regulated in an experience-dependent manner and correlates with acquired memory. Furthermore, manipulating slow waves can enhance or impair memory consolidation. During slow wave sleep, inter-areal interactions between the cortex and hippocampus (HC) have been proposed to consolidate declarative memory; however, interactions for non-declarative (HC-independent) memory remain largely uninvestigated. We recently showed that the directional influence in a slow-wave range through a top-down cortical long-range circuit is involved in the consolidation of non-declarative memory. At the synaptic level, the average cortical synaptic strength is known to be potentiated during wakefulness and depressed during sleep. Moreover, learning causes plasticity in a subset of synapses, allocating memory to them. Sleep may help to differentiate synaptic strength between allocated and non-allocated synapses (i.e., improving the signal-to-noise ratio, which may facilitate memory consolidation). Herein, we offer perspectives on inter-areal interactions and synaptic plasticity for memory consolidation during sleep.

Keywords: cortex; hippocampus; memory; oscillation; sleep; synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology*