Sleep is required to consolidate odor memory and remodel olfactory synapses

Cell. 2023 Jun 22;186(13):2911-2928.e20. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2023.05.006. Epub 2023 Jun 2.


Animals with complex nervous systems demand sleep for memory consolidation and synaptic remodeling. Here, we show that, although the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system has a limited number of neurons, sleep is necessary for both processes. In addition, it is unclear if, in any system, sleep collaborates with experience to alter synapses between specific neurons and whether this ultimately affects behavior. C. elegans neurons have defined connections and well-described contributions to behavior. We show that spaced odor-training and post-training sleep induce long-term memory. Memory consolidation, but not acquisition, requires a pair of interneurons, the AIYs, which play a role in odor-seeking behavior. In worms that consolidate memory, both sleep and odor conditioning are required to diminish inhibitory synaptic connections between the AWC chemosensory neurons and the AIYs. Thus, we demonstrate in a living organism that sleep is required for events immediately after training that drive memory consolidation and alter synaptic structures.

Keywords: C. elegans; behavior; circuit; memory; memory consolidation; plasticity; single cell; sleep; synapse; systems consolidation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / physiology
  • Odorants*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Smell
  • Synapses / physiology