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Trends Neurosci. 2011 Oct;34(10):504-14. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2011.06.003. Epub 2011 Aug 20.

An opportunistic theory of cellular and systems consolidation.

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  • 1University of California, San Diego, Department of Psychiatry 9116a, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92116, USA.


Memories are often classified as hippocampus dependent or independent, and sleep has been found to facilitate both, but in different ways. In this Opinion, we explore the optimal neural state for cellular and systems consolidation of hippocampus-dependent memories that benefit from sleep. We suggest that these two kinds of consolidation, which are ordinarily treated separately, overlap in time and jointly benefit from a period of reduced interference (during which no new memories are formed). Conditions that result in reduced interference include slow wave sleep (SWS), NMDA receptor antagonists, benzodiazepines, alcohol and acetylcholine antagonists. We hypothesize that the consolidation of hippocampal-dependent memories might not depend on SWS per se. Instead, the brain opportunistically consolidates previously encoded memories whenever the hippocampus is not otherwise occupied by the task of encoding new memories.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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