Sleep, Memory, and Plasticity
Annual Review of Psychology
Vol. 57: 139-166 (Volume publication date January 2006)
First published online as a Review in Advance on October 3, 2005

Sleep, Memory, and Plasticity

Matthew P. Walker1,2 and Robert Stickgold2
Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory1 and Center for Sleep and Cognition,2 Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215; email:,

Although the functions of sleep remain largely unknown, one of the most exciting hypotheses is that sleep contributes importantly to processes of memory and brain plasticity. Over the past decade, a large body of work, spanning most of the neurosciences, has provided a substantive body of evidence supporting this role of sleep in what is becoming known as sleep-dependent memory processing. We review these findings, focusing specifically on the role of sleep in (a) memory encoding, (b) memory consolidation, (c) brain plasticity, and (d) memory reconsolidation; we finish with a summary of the field and its potential future directions.
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