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Trends Neurosci. 2011 Sep;34(9):452-63. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2011.07.005. Epub 2011 Aug 15.

Synaptic plasticity in sleep: learning, homeostasis and disease.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Center for Sleep Sciences, Beckman Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA 94305, USA.


Sleep is a fundamental and evolutionarily conserved aspect of animal life. Recent studies have shed light on the role of sleep in synaptic plasticity. Demonstrations of memory replay and synapse homeostasis suggest that one essential role of sleep is in the consolidation and optimization of synaptic circuits to retain salient memory traces despite the noise of daily experience. Here, we review this recent evidence and suggest that sleep creates a heightened state of plasticity, which may be essential for this optimization. Furthermore, we discuss how sleep deficits seen in diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and autism spectrum disorders might not just reflect underlying circuit malfunction, but could also play a direct role in the progression of those disorders.

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