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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 21;6(3):e18056. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018056.

Evidence for the re-enactment of a recently learned behavior during sleepwalking.

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  • 1Sleep Disorders Unit, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, APHP, Paris, France.


Animal studies have shown that sequenced patterns of neuronal activity may be replayed during sleep. However, the existence of such replay in humans has not yet been directly demonstrated. Here we studied patients who exhibit overt behaviors during sleep to test whether sequences of movements trained during the day may be spontaneously reenacted by the patients during sleep. We recruited 19 sleepwalkers (who displayed complex and purposeful behaviors emerging from non REM sleep), 20 patients with REM sleep behavior disorder (who enacted their dreams in REM sleep) and 18 healthy controls. Continuous video sleep recordings were performed during sleep following intensive training on a sequence of large movements (learned during a variant of the serial reaction time task). Both patient groups showed learning of the intensively trained motor sequence after sleep. We report the re-enactment of a fragment of the recently trained motor behavior during one sleepwalking episode. This study provides, to our knowledge, the first evidence of a temporally-structured replay of a learned behavior during sleep in humans. Our observation also suggests that the study of such sleep disorders may provide unique and critical information about cognitive functions operating during sleep.

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