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The sleeping child outplays the adult's capacity to convert implicit into explicit knowledge

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When sleep followed implicit training on a motor sequence, children showed greater gains in explicit sequence knowledge after sleep than adults. This greater explicit knowledge in children was linked to their higher sleep slow-wave activity and to stronger hippocampal activation at explicit knowledge retrieval. Our data indicate the superiority of children in extracting invariant features from complex environments, possibly as a result of enhanced reprocessing of hippocampal memory representations during slow-wave sleep.

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Figure 1: Experimental procedure, explicit sequence knowledge at retrieval testing, and sleep.
Figure 2: SWA during post-training sleep and BOLD signal responses during retrieval of explicit knowledge.

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  • 03 March 2013

    In the version of this article initially published online, author names Björn Rasch and Christian Büchel were misspelled Bjöern Rasch and Christian Büechel. The error has been corrected for the print, PDF and HTML versions of this article.


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The authors are grateful to S. Diekelmann, S. Groch, T. Ole Bergmann, K. Mueller, K. Wendt, T. Kraemer, H. Neumeyer, M. Menz, A. Marschner, G. Feld and D. McMakin for technical support and helpful discussions. This study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 654 'Plasticity and Sleep').

Author information




I.W. and K.I.I. conducted the experiments. I.W., B.R., M.R., J.B. and C.B. designed the experiments and analyzed the data. I.W., J.B. and C.B. wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Ines Wilhelm or Jan Born.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Figures 1 and 2 and Supplementary Tables 1–4 (PDF 411 kb)

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Wilhelm, I., Rose, M., Imhof, K. et al. The sleeping child outplays the adult's capacity to convert implicit into explicit knowledge. Nat Neurosci 16, 391–393 (2013).

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