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Brief Communication
Nature Neuroscience  6, 697 - 698 (2003)
Published online: 22 June 2003; | doi:10.1038/nn1078

Sleep-dependent learning: a nap is as good as a night

Sara Mednick1, Ken Nakayama1 & Robert Stickgold2

1  Psychology Department, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

2  Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.

Correspondence should be addressed to Sara Mednick smednick@post.harvard.edu
The learning of perceptual skills has been shown in some cases to depend on the plasticity of the visual cortex1 and to require post-training nocturnal sleep2. We now report that sleep-dependent learning of a texture discrimination task can be accomplished in humans by brief (60− 90 min) naps containing both slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This nap-dependent learning closely resembled that previously reported for an 8-h night of sleep in terms of magnitude, sleep-stage dependency and retinotopic specificity, and it was additive to subsequent sleep-dependent improvement, such that performance over 24 h showed as much learning as is normally seen after twice that length of time. Thus, from the perspective of behavioral improvement, a nap is as good as a night of sleep for learning on this perceptual task.


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Nature Neuroscience
ISSN: 1097-6256
EISSN: 1546-1726
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