Nocturnal mnemonics: Sleep and hippocampal memory processing

  • Saletin J
  • Walker M
  • 123


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 34


    Citations of this article.


As critical as waking brain function is to learning and memory, an established literature now describes an equally important yet complementary role for sleep in information processing. This overview examines the specific contribution of sleep to human hippocampal memory processing; both the detriments caused by a lack of sleep, and conversely, the proactive benefits that develop following the presence of sleep. First, a role for sleep before learning is discussed, preparing the hippocampus for initial memory encoding. Second, a role for sleep after learning is considered, modulating the post-encoding consolidation of hippocampal-dependent memory. Third, a model is outlined in which these encoding and consolidation operations are symbiotically accomplished, associated with specific NREM sleep physiological oscillations. As a result, the optimal network outcome is achieved: increasing hippocampal independence and hence overnight consolidation, while restoring next-day sparse hippocampal encoding capacity for renewed learning ability upon awakening. Finally, emerging evidence is considered suggesting that, unlike previous conceptions, sleep does not universally consolidate all information. Instead, and based on explicit as well as saliency cues during initial encoding, sleep executes the discriminatory offline consolidation only of select information. Consequently, sleep promotes the targeted strengthening of some memories while actively forgetting others; a proposal with significant theoretical and clinical ramifications.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Consolidation
  • Encoding
  • Forgetting
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory
  • Sleep
  • Sleep spindles

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document


  • Jared M. Saletin

  • Matthew P. Walker

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free