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Curr Biol. 2010 May 11;20(9):850-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.03.027. Epub 2010 Apr 22.

Dreaming of a learning task is associated with enhanced sleep-dependent memory consolidation.

Author information

  • 1Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

Abstract

It is now well established that postlearning sleep is beneficial for human memory performance. Meanwhile, human and animal studies have demonstrated that learning-related neural activity is re-expressed during posttraining nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. NREM sleep processes appear to be particularly beneficial for hippocampus-dependent forms of memory. These observations suggest that learning triggers the reactivation and reorganization of memory traces during sleep, a systems-level process that in turn enhances behavioral performance. Here, we hypothesized that dreaming about a learning experience during NREM sleep would be associated with improved performance on a hippocampus-dependent spatial memory task. Subjects were trained on a virtual navigation task and then retested on the same task 5 hr after initial training. Improved performance at retest was strongly associated with task-related dream imagery during an intervening afternoon nap. Task-related thoughts during wakefulness, in contrast, did not predict improved performance. These observations suggest that sleep-dependent memory consolidation in humans is facilitated by the offline reactivation of recently formed memories, and furthermore that dream experiences reflect this memory processing. That similar effects were not observed during wakefulness suggests that these mnemonic processes are specific to the sleep state.

(c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID:
20417102
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2869395
Free PMC Article
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