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J Neurosci. 2000 Nov 15;20(22):8607-13.

Avoidance task training potentiates phasic pontine-wave density in the rat: A mechanism for sleep-dependent plasticity.

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  • 1Sleep Research Laboratory, Program in Behavioral Neuroscience, and Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


Behavioral studies of learning and memory in both humans and animals support a role for sleep in the consolidation and integration of memories. The present study explored possible physiological mechanisms of sleep-dependent behavioral plasticity by examining the relationship between learning and state-dependent phasic signs of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Cortical electroencephalogram, electromyogram, eye movement, hippocampal theta-wave, and pontine-wave (P-wave) measures were recorded simultaneously in freely moving rats after a session of conditioned avoidance learning or a control session. After learning trials, rats spent 25.5% more time in REM sleep and 180.6% more time in a transitional state between slow-wave sleep and REM sleep (tS-R) compared with that in control trials. Both REM sleep and tS-R behavioral states are characterized by the presence of P-waves. P-wave density was significantly greater in the first four episodes of REM sleep after the learning session compared with the control session. Furthermore, the P-wave density change between the first and third REM sleep episodes was proportional to the improvement of task performance between the initial training session and the post-sleep retest session. These findings show that the increase in P-wave density during the post-training REM sleep episodes is correlated with the effective consolidation and retention of avoidance task learning.

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