Monday, March 12, 2007

Odor cues during sleep stimulate memory.

The March 9 issue of Science has an interesting report by Rasch et al. and commentary by Miller on experiments demonstrating that pulses of an odor (rose scent) given during a learning task, improve consolidation of the memory of that task if given also during slow-wave sleep. The abstract:
Sleep facilitates memory consolidation. A widely held model assumes that this is because newly encoded memories undergo covert reactivation during sleep. We cued new memories in humans during sleep by presenting an odor that had been presented as context during prior learning, and so showed that reactivation indeed causes memory consolidation during sleep. Re-exposure to the odor during slow-wave sleep (SWS) improved the retention of hippocampus-dependent declarative memories but not of hippocampus-independent procedural memories. Odor re-exposure was ineffective during rapid eye movement sleep or wakefulness or when the odor had been omitted during prior learning. Concurring with these findings, functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed significant hippocampal activation in response to odor re-exposure during SWS.

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