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Dev Sci. 2018 May;21(3):e12587. doi: 10.1111/desc.12587. Epub 2017 Jul 18.

Memory in 3-month-old infants benefits from a short nap.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
2nd Department of Pediatrics, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary.
Institute for Behavioral Sciences, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary.
Department of Developmental and Social Psychology, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, Hungary.


A broad range of studies demonstrate that sleep has a facilitating role in memory consolidation (see Rasch & Born, ). Whether sleep-dependent memory consolidation is also apparent in infants in their first few months of life has not been investigated. We demonstrate that 3-month-old infants only remember a cartoon face approximately 1.5-2 hours after its first presentation when a period of sleep followed learning. Furthermore, habituation time, that is, the time to become bored with a stimulus shown repetitively, correlated negatively with the density of infant sleep spindles, implying that processing speed is linked to specific electroencephalographic components of sleep. Our findings show that without a short period of sleep infants have problems remembering a newly seen face, that sleep enhances memory consolidation from a very early age, highlighting the importance of napping in infancy, and that infant sleep spindles may be associated with some aspects of cognitive ability.

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