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Learn Mem. 2008 Apr 3;15(4):233-7. doi: 10.1101/lm.771608. Print 2008 Apr.

Sleep directly following learning benefits consolidation of spatial associative memory.

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Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The last decade has brought forth convincing evidence for a role of sleep in non-declarative memory. A similar function of sleep in episodic memory is supported by various correlational studies, but direct evidence is limited. Here we show that cued recall of face-location associations is significantly higher following a 12-h retention interval containing sleep than following an equally long period of waking. Furthermore, retention is significantly higher over a 24-h sleep-wake interval than over an equally long wake-sleep interval. This difference occurs because retention during sleep was significantly better when sleep followed learning directly, rather than after a day of waking. These data demonstrate a beneficial effect of sleep on memory that cannot be explained solely as a consequence of reduced interference. Rather, our findings suggest a competitive consolidation process, in which the fate of a memory depends, at least in part, on its relative stability at sleep onset: Strong memories tend to be preserved, while weaker memories erode still further. An important aspect of memory consolidation may thus result from the removal of irrelevant memory "debris."

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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