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Curr Biol. 2006 Jul 11;16(13):1290-4.

Interfering with theories of sleep and memory: sleep, declarative memory, and associative interference.

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  • 1Center for Sleep and Cognition, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, Feldberg 861, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Mounting behavioral evidence in humans supports the claim that sleep leads to improvements in recently acquired, nondeclarative memories. Examples include motor-sequence learning; visual-discrimination learning; and perceptual learning of a synthetic language. In contrast, there are limited human data supporting a benefit of sleep for declarative (hippocampus-mediated) memory in humans (for review, see). This is particularly surprising given that animal models (e.g.,) and neuroimaging studies (e.g.,) predict that sleep facilitates hippocampus-based memory consolidation. We hypothesized that we could unmask the benefits of sleep by challenging the declarative memory system with competing information (interference). This is the first study to demonstrate that sleep protects declarative memories from subsequent associative interference, and it has important implications for understanding the neurobiology of memory consolidation.

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