Sleep spindles facilitate selective memory consolidation

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Dan DenisR. Stickgold


Sleep has been shown to be critical for memory consolidation, and recent research has demonstrated that this consolidation effect is selective, with certain memories being prioritized for strengthening. Initial strength of a memory appears to be one metric the brain uses to prioritize memory traces for sleep-based consolidation, but the role of consolidation-mediating cortical oscillations, such as sleep spindles and slow oscillations, has not been explored. Here, N=54 participants studied pairs of words to three distinct encoding strengths, with recall being tested immediately following learning and again six hours later. N=36 had a two-hour afternoon nap opportunity following learning, whilst the remaining (n=18) remained awake throughout. Results showed a selective benefit of sleep on memory, with sleep preferentially consolidating weakly encoded items (p=.003). The magnitude of this effect (d=0.90, 95% CI=0.29-1.50) was similar when compared to a previous study examining the benefits of a full night of sleep (d=1.36, 95% CI=0.59-2.12). Within the nap group, consolidation of weakly encoded items was associated with sleep spindle density during slow wave sleep (r=.48, p=.003). This association was present when separately exam...Continue Reading

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