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Psychol Sci. 2013 Apr;24(4):439-47. doi: 10.1177/0956797612457391. Epub 2013 Feb 22.

Sleep consolidation of interfering auditory memories in starlings.

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Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Memory consolidation has been described as a process to strengthen newly formed memories and to stabilize them against interference from similar learning experiences. Sleep facilitates memory consolidation in humans, improving memory performance and protecting against interference encountered after sleep. The European starling, a songbird, has also manifested sleep-dependent memory consolidation when trained on an auditory-classification task. Here, we examined how memory for two similar classification tasks is consolidated across waking and sleep in starlings. We demonstrated for the first time that the learning of each classification reliably interferes with the retention of the other classification across waking retention but that sleep enhances and stabilizes the memory of both classifications even after performance is impaired by interference. These observations demonstrate that sleep consolidation enhances retention of interfering experiences, facilitating opportunistic daytime learning and the subsequent formation of stable long-term memories.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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