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Neuron. 2004 Sep 30;44(1):121-33.

Sleep-dependent learning and memory consolidation.

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Center for Sleep and Cognition, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center E/FD 861, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


While the functions of sleep remain largely unknown, one of the most exciting and contentious hypotheses is that sleep contributes importantly to memory. A large number of studies offer a substantive body of evidence supporting this role of sleep in what is becoming known as sleep-dependent memory processing. This review will provide evidence of sleep-dependent memory consolidation and sleep-dependent brain plasticity and is divided into five sections: (1) an overview of sleep stages, memory categories, and the distinct stages of memory development; (2) a review of the specific relationships between sleep and memory, both in humans and animals; (3) a survey of evidence describing sleep-dependent brain plasticity, including human brain imaging studies as well as animal studies of cellular neurophysiology and molecular biology. We close (4) with a consideration of unanswered questions as well as existing arguments against the role of sleep in learning and memory and (5) a concluding summary.

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