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Front Neurol. 2012 Apr 17;3:57. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2012.00057. eCollection 2012.

Hippocampal sleep features: relations to human memory function.

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  • 1Department of Health Sciences, University of L'Aquila L'Aquila, Italy.


The recent spread of intracranial electroencephalographic (EEG) recording techniques for presurgical evaluation of drug-resistant epileptic patients is providing new information on the activity of different brain structures during both wakefulness and sleep. The interest has been mainly focused on the medial temporal lobe, and in particular the hippocampal formation, whose peculiar local sleep features have been recently described, providing support to the idea that sleep is not a spatially global phenomenon. The study of the hippocampal sleep electrophysiology is particularly interesting because of its central role in the declarative memory formation. Recent data indicate that sleep contributes to memory formation. Therefore, it is relevant to understand whether specific patterns of activity taking place during sleep are related to memory consolidation processes. Fascinating similarities between different states of consciousness (wakefulness, REM sleep, non-REM sleep) in some electrophysiological mechanisms underlying cognitive processes have been reported. For instance, large-scale synchrony in gamma activity is important for waking memory and perception processes, and its changes during sleep may be the neurophysiological substrate of sleep-related deficits of declarative memory. Hippocampal activity seems to specifically support memory consolidation during sleep, through specific coordinated neurophysiological events (slow waves, spindles, ripples) that would facilitate the integration of new information into the pre-existing cortical networks. A few studies indeed provided direct evidence that rhinal ripples as well as slow hippocampal oscillations are correlated with memory consolidation in humans. More detailed electrophysiological investigations assessing the specific relations between different types of memory consolidation and hippocampal EEG features are in order. These studies will add an important piece of knowledge to the elucidation of the ultimate sleep function.


brain rhythms; hippocampus; local sleep; memory consolidation; oscillations; stereo-EEG

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