Sleep-Dependent Learning and Memory Consolidation
Neuron Volume 44, Issue 1, 30 September 2004, Pages 121-133

Sleep-Dependent Learning and Memory Consolidation

Matthew P. WalkerCorresponding Author Contact Information, a, E-mail The Corresponding Author and Robert StickgoldCorresponding Author Contact Information, a, E-mail The Corresponding Author

aCenter for Sleep and Cognition, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center E/FD 861, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 USA

Available online 29 September 2004.


While the functions of sleep remain largely unknown, one of the most exciting and contentious hypotheses is that sleep contributes importantly to memory. A large number of studies offer a substantive body of evidence supporting this role of sleep in what is becoming known as sleep-dependent memory processing. This review will provide evidence of sleep-dependent memory consolidation and sleep-dependent brain plasticity and is divided into five sections: (1) an overview of sleep stages, memory categories, and the distinct stages of memory development; (2) a review of the specific relationships between sleep and memory, both in humans and animals; (3) a survey of evidence describing sleep-dependent brain plasticity, including human brain imaging studies as well as animal studies of cellular neurophysiology and molecular biology. We close (4) with a consideration of unanswered questions as well as existing arguments against the role of sleep in learning and memory and (5) a concluding summary.

Article Outline

Main Text

1. Delineations and Definitions of Sleep and Memory

Sleep Stages and Sleep Biology
Memory Categories
Memory Stages
Interim Summary

2. Behavioral Studies of Sleep and Memory

Human Studies of Declarative Memory
Interim Summary
Human Studies of Procedural Memory
Animal Studies
Interim Summary

3. Sleep-Dependent Brain Plasticity

Neuroimaging Studies
Electrophysiological Studies
Cellular Studies
Molecular Studies
Interim Summary

4. Unresolved Questions

Fear Conditioning and REM Sleep in Rodents
Stress, REM Sleep, and Memory Consolidation
Miscellaneous Arguments
Unresolved Questions

5. Summary

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