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The restorative effect of naps on perceptual deterioration

Nature Neurosciencevolume 5pages677681 (2002) | Download Citation



Human performance on visual texture discrimination tasks improves slowly (over days) in the absence of additional training. This 'slow learning' requires nocturnal sleep after training and is limited to the region of visual space in which training occurred. Here, we tested human subjects four times in one day and found that with repeated, within-day testing, perceptual thresholds actually increased progressively across the four test sessions. This performance deterioration was prevented either by shifting the target stimuli to an untrained region of visual space or by having the subjects take a mid-day nap between the second and third sessions.

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This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (MH 48,832 and NS 26,985) and AFOSR (83-0320) and by fellowships to J.L.C. and M.A. from the Spanish Ministry of Education and the NATO Scientific Program, respectively.

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

    • Sara C. Mednick
    •  & Ken Nakayama
  2. Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School, 74 Fenwood Road, Boston, 02115, Massachusetts, USA

    • Jose L. Cantero
    • , Mercedes Atienza
    • , Alicia A. Levin
    • , Neha Pathak
    •  & Robert Stickgold


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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Sara C. Mednick.

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