How rhythms of the sleeping brain tune memory and synaptic plasticity

Sleep. 2019 Jul 8;42(7):zsz095. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsz095.


Decades of neurobehavioral research has linked sleep-associated rhythms in various brain areas to improvements in cognitive performance. However, it remains unclear what synaptic changes might underlie sleep-dependent declarative memory consolidation and procedural task improvement, and why these same changes appear not to occur across a similar interval of wake. Here we describe recent research on how one specific feature of sleep-network rhythms characteristic of rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement-could drive synaptic strengthening or weakening in specific brain circuits. We provide an overview of how these rhythms could affect synaptic plasticity individually and in concert. We also present an overarching hypothesis for how all network rhythms occurring across the sleeping brain could aid in encoding new information in neural circuits.

Keywords: consolidation; oscillation; resonance; synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Waves / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Sleep, Slow-Wave / physiology*