Sleep consolidates stimulus-response learning

Learn Mem. 2023 Sep 19;30(9):175-184. doi: 10.1101/lm.053753.123. Print 2023 Sep.


Performing a motor response to a sensory stimulus creates a memory trace whose behavioral correlates are classically investigated in terms of repetition priming effects. Such stimulus-response learning entails two types of associations that are partly independent: (1) an association between the stimulus and the motor response and (2) an association between the stimulus and the classification task in which it is encountered. Here, we tested whether sleep supports long-lasting stimulus-response learning on a task requiring participants (1) for establishing stimulus-classification associations to classify presented objects along two different dimensions ("size" and "mechanical") and (2) as motor response (action) to respond with either the left or right index finger. Moreover, we examined whether strengthening of stimulus-classification associations is preferentially linked to nonrapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep and strengthening of stimulus-action associations to REM sleep. We tested 48 healthy volunteers in a between-subjects design comparing postlearning retention periods of nighttime sleep versus daytime wakefulness. At postretention testing, we found that sleep supports consolidation of both stimulus-action and stimulus-classification associations, as indicated by increased reaction times in "switch conditions"; that is, when, at test, the acutely instructed classification task and/or correct motor response for a given stimulus differed from that during original learning. Polysomnographic recordings revealed that both kinds of associations were correlated with non-REM spindle activity. Our results do not support the view of differential roles for non-REM and REM sleep in the consolidation of stimulus-classification and stimulus-action associations, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Eye Movements
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Reaction Time
  • Sleep*