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


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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Figure 1: Same-day improvement in no-nap, 60-min nap and 90-min nap groups, with and without REM and SWS.
Figure 2: Improvement for nap and no-nap groups.

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This research was supported by grants from the US National Institutes of Health (MH 48832, DA 11744 and NS 26985) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (83-0320).

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Correspondence to Sara Mednick.

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Mednick, S., Nakayama, K. & Stickgold, R. Sleep-dependent learning: a nap is as good as a night. Nat Neurosci 6, 697–698 (2003).

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