The specific effects of sleep on synaptic plasticity remain unclear. We report that mouse hippocampal sharp-wave ripple oscillations serve as intrinsic events that trigger long-lasting synaptic depression. Silencing of sharp-wave ripples during slow-wave states prevented the spontaneous down-regulation of net synaptic weights and impaired the learning of new memories. The synaptic down-regulation was dependent on the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor and selective for a specific input pathway. Thus, our findings are consistent with the role of slow-wave states in refining memory engrams by reducing recent memory-irrelevant neuronal activity and suggest a previously unrecognized function for sharp-wave ripples.
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