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Trends Cogn Sci. 2014 Mar;18(3):141-52. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.12.005. Epub 2014 Jan 22.

Sleep, synaptic connectivity, and hippocampal memory during early development.

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University Children's Hospital Zurich, Steinwiesstrasse 75, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland.
University of Tübingen, Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, Otfried-Mueller-Str. 25, 72076 Tübingen, Germany; University of Tübingen, Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Otfried-Mueller-Str. 25, 72076 Tübingen, Germany. Electronic address:


Sleep, specifically sleep slow-wave activity (SWA), contributes to global synaptic homeostasis in neocortical networks by downscaling synaptic connections that were potentiated during prior wakefulness. In parallel, SWA supports the consolidation of hippocampus-dependent episodic memory, a process linked to local increases in synaptic connectivity. During development, both SWA and episodic memory show parallel time courses: distinct SWA and capabilities to form episodic memory become established during infancy and then profoundly increase across childhood until puberty. We propose that the parallel increases across childhood reflect an imbalance in the underlying regulation of synaptic connectivity during sleep; although memory consolidation favoring synaptic potentiation is enhanced, global synaptic downscaling during sleep SWA does not attain complete recovery of homeostatic baseline levels.

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