Daytime napping offers various benefits for healthy adults, including enhancement of motor skill learning. It remains controversial whether napping can provide the same enhancement as overnight sleep, and if so, whether the same neural underpinning is recruited. To investigate this issue, we conducted functional MRI during motor skill learning, before and after a short day-nap, in 13 participants, and compared them with a larger group (n = 47) who were tested following regular overnight sleep. Training in a sequential finger-tapping task required participants to press a keyboard in the MRI scanner with their non-dominant left hand as quickly and accurately as possible. The nap group slept for 60 min in the scanner after the training run, and the previously trained skill was subsequently re-tested. The whole-night sleep group went home after the training, and was tested the next day. Offline improvement of speed was observed in both groups, whereas accuracy was significantly improved only in the whole-night sleep group. Correspondingly, the offline increment in task-related activation was significant in the putamen of the whole-night group. This finding reveals a qualitative difference in the offline improvement effect between daytime napping and overnight sleep.
Sugawara, S. K., Koike, T., Kawamichi, H., Makita, K., Hamano, Y. H., Takahashi, H. K., … Sadato, N. (2018). Qualitative differences in offline improvement of procedural memory by daytime napping and overnight sleep: An fMRI study. Neuroscience Research, 132, 37–45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neures.2017.09.006