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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Dec;16(6):716-22. Epub 2006 Nov 7.

The role of sleep in declarative memory consolidation: passive, permissive, active or none?

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  • 1Center for Sleep and Cognition, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, Feldberg 866, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Those inclined to relish in scientific controversy will not be disappointed by the literature on the effects of sleep on memory. Opinions abound. Yet refinements in the experimental study of these complex processes of sleep and memory are bringing this fascinating relationship into sharper focus. A longstanding position contends that sleep passively protects memories by temporarily sheltering them from interference, thus providing precious little benefit for memory. But recent evidence is unmasking a more substantial and long-lasting benefit of sleep for declarative memories. Although the precise causal mechanisms within sleep that result in memory consolidation remain elusive, recent evidence leads us to conclude that unique neurobiological processes within sleep actively enhance declarative memories.

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