Off-line processing of memory traces during human sleep

Pierre Maquet, Philippe Peigneux, Steven Laureys, Martin Desseilles, Mélanie Boly, Thien Thanh Dang-Vu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sleep is thought to participate in the consolidation of recent memory traces. We tested this hypothesis in humans by using functional neuroimaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography). First, following the training procedural visuo-motor learning task (pursuit task), total sleep deprivation on the first post-training night significantly deteriorates the gain in performance, which is usually observed after one complete night of sleep. In parallel, sleep deprivation hampers the changes in functional segregation and connectivity, which underpin the gain in performance usually observed in subjects allowed to sleep on the first post-training night. Second, following the training on an implicit memory task (probabilistic serial reaction time task), some brain areas are reactivated during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep on the first post-training night. The reactivation was shown to be related to the processing of high-level material and to be modulated by the amount of learning achieved during the training session. These changes in activity do not involve isolated brain areas but entire macroscopic cortico-subcortical networks. Taken together, the results suggest an off-line processing of recent memory traces during sleep.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalSleep and Biological Rhythms
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • functional neuroimaging
  • memory
  • plasticity
  • sleep

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