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Nat Commun. 2015 Jan 29;6:6004. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7004.

Generalization of word meanings during infant sleep.

Author information

1
1] Department of Psychology, Humboldt University of Berlin, Rudower Chaussee 18, 12489 Berlin, Germany [2] Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstr. 1a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
2
1] Child Development Center, University Children's Hospital, Steinwiesstrasse 75, 8032 Zürich, Switzerland [2] Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology and Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of Tübingen, Otfried Müller-Str. 25, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
3
Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology and Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of Tübingen, Otfried Müller-Str. 25, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
4
Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstr. 1a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.

Abstract

Sleep consolidates memory and promotes generalization in adults, but it is still unknown to what extent the rapidly growing infant memory benefits from sleep. Here we show that during sleep the infant brain reorganizes recent memories and creates semantic knowledge from individual episodic experiences. Infants aged between 9 and 16 months were given the opportunity to encode both objects as specific word meanings and categories as general word meanings. Event-related potentials indicate that, initially, infants acquire only the specific but not the general word meanings. About 1.5 h later, infants who napped during the retention period, but not infants who stayed awake, remember the specific word meanings and, moreover, successfully generalize words to novel category exemplars. Independently of age, the semantic generalization effect is correlated with sleep spindle activity during the nap, suggesting that sleep spindles are involved in infant sleep-dependent brain plasticity.

PMID:
25633407
PMCID:
PMC4316748
DOI:
10.1038/ncomms7004
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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