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      Sleep inspires insight

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      Nature
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Insight denotes a mental restructuring that leads to a sudden gain of explicit knowledge allowing qualitatively changed behaviour. Anecdotal reports on scientific discovery suggest that pivotal insights can be gained through sleep. Sleep consolidates recent memories and, concomitantly, could allow insight by changing their representational structure. Here we show a facilitating role of sleep in a process of insight. Subjects performed a cognitive task requiring the learning of stimulus-response sequences, in which they improved gradually by increasing response speed across task blocks. However, they could also improve abruptly after gaining insight into a hidden abstract rule underlying all sequences. Initial training establishing a task representation was followed by 8 h of nocturnal sleep, nocturnal wakefulness, or daytime wakefulness. At subsequent retesting, more than twice as many subjects gained insight into the hidden rule after sleep as after wakefulness, regardless of time of day. Sleep did not enhance insight in the absence of initial training. A characteristic antecedent of sleep-related insight was revealed in a slowing of reaction times across sleep. We conclude that sleep, by restructuring new memory representations, facilitates extraction of explicit knowledge and insightful behaviour.

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          Most cited references19

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          The role of sleep in learning and memory.

          P Maquet (2001)
          Sleep has been implicated in the plastic cerebral changes that underlie learning and memory. Indications that sleep participates in the consolidation of fresh memory traces come from a wide range of experimental observations. At the network level, reactivations during sleep of neuronal assemblies recently challenged by new environmental circumstances have been reported in different experimental designs. These neuronal assemblies are proposed to be involved in the processing of memory traces during sleep. However, despite this rapidly growing body of experimental data, evidence for the influence of sleep discharge patterns on memory traces remains fragmentary. The underlying role of sleep in learning and memory has yet to be precisely characterized.
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            Emotional memory formation is enhanced across sleep intervals with high amounts of rapid eye movement sleep.

            Recent studies indicated a selective activation during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep of the amygdala known to play a decisive role in the processing of emotional stimuli. This study compared memory retention of emotional versus neutral text material over intervals covering either early sleep known to be dominated by nonREM slow wave sleep (SWS) or late sleep, in which REM sleep is dominant. Two groups of men were tested across 3-h periods of early and late sleep (sleep group) or corresponding retention intervals filled with wakefulness (wake group). Sleep was recorded polysomnographically. Cortisol concentrations in saliva were monitored at acquisition and retrieval testing. As expected, the amount of REM sleep was about three times greater during late than during early retention sleep, whereas a reversed pattern was observed for SWS distribution (P < 0.001). Sleep improved retention, compared with the effects of wake intervals (P < 0.02). However, this effect was substantial only in the late night (P < 0.005), during which retention was generally worse than during the early night (P < 0.02). Late sleep particularly enhanced memory for emotional texts. This effect was highly significant in comparison with memory for neutral texts (P < 0.01) and in comparison with memory after late and early wake intervals (P < 0.001). Cortisol concentration differed between early and late retention intervals but not between sleep and wake conditions. Results are consonant with a supportive function of REM sleep predominating late sleep for the formation of emotional memory in humans.
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              Influences of hippocampal place cell firing in the awake state on the activity of these cells during subsequent sleep episodes.

              Rat hippocampal (CA1) complex spike "place cells" of freely behaving rats were recorded in pairs continuously during a series of waking (exploration and still-alert), drowsy (quiet-awake), and sleeping (slow-wave, pre-rapid-eye-movement and rapid-eye-movement sleep) behaviors. Pairs of units were selected that had nonoverlapping place fields. The rats were restricted from entering the place field of either cell overnight, and on the day of recording cells were exposed to their individual place fields independently and in a counterbalanced manner. Following exposure, recordings were made in the subsequent sleep episodes and the firing characteristics of both cells were analyzed. Following exposure, significant increases in the spiking activity of the exposed cell were observed in the subsequent sleeping states that were not evident in the unexposed cell. The increased activity was observed in the rate of firing (spikes/sec), the rate of occurrence of bursts with multiple spikes, as well as the number of bursts displaying short (2-4 msec) interspike intervals. The findings suggest that neuronal activity of hippocampal place cells in the awake states may influence the firing characteristics of these cells in subsequent sleep episodes. The increased firing rates along with the greater number of multiple spike bursts and the shorter interspike intervals within the burst, following exposure to a cell's place field, may represent possible information processing during sleep.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                January 2004
                January 2004
                : 427
                : 6972
                : 352-355
                Article
                10.1038/nature02223
                14737168
                7853d767-f7b1-4c96-90af-4fb9ff6ddf0b
                © 2004

                http://www.springer.com/tdm


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