Monday, June 01, 2015

Sleep stabilizes, but does not enhance, motor performance training.

From Nettersheim et al., a result challenging the prominent model that sleep enhances the performance of a newly learned skill (which is my experience in learning difficulat new piano passages):
Sleep supports the consolidation of motor sequence memories, yet it remains unclear whether sleep stabilizes or actually enhances motor sequence performance. Here we assessed the time course of motor memory consolidation in humans, taking early boosts in performance into account and varying the time between training and sleep. Two groups of subjects, each participating in a short wake condition and a longer sleep condition, were trained on the sequential finger-tapping task in the evening and were tested (1) after wake intervals of either 30 min or 4 h and (2) after a night of sleep that ensued either 30 min or 4 h after training. The results show an early boost in performance 30 min after training and a subsequent decay across the 4 h wake interval. When sleep followed 30 min after training, post-sleep performance was stabilized at the early boost level. Sleep at 4 h after training restored performance to the early boost level, such that, 12 h after training, performance was comparable regardless of whether sleep occurred 30 min or 4 h after training. These findings indicate that sleep does not enhance but rather stabilizes motor sequence performance without producing additional gains.

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