beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

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Research History

The Center for Sleep and Cognition (and before that, the Laboratory of Neurophysiology) has been at the forefront of investigations into the role of sleep in learning and memory consolidation. In our published work, we have provided clear demonstrations, and in many cases the first such demonstration, that:

  • Some forms of memory consolidation are absolutely dependent on post-training sleep
  • Naps can be as effective as a night of sleep for memory consolidation and can reverse daytime, task-specific fatigue
  • Access to associative memories is altered during REM sleep
  • Memory reconsolidation can be induced in humans with ecological interference techniques
  • Hypnagogic dreams are constructed without the help of the hippocampally mediated episodic memory system
  • Sleep induces changes in the brain regions activated during the performance of previously learned skills
  • Sleep deprivation prior to learning leads to the preferential retention of memories with negative emotional tone
  • Sleep can enhance the memory of emotional elements within pictures, while allowing memory of other aspects of the picture to deteriorate
  • Sleep can enhance memory for the gist of an experience, while allowing the details to deteriorate
  • Sleep can extract the rules which explain previous complex experiences
  • Normally sleep-dependent consolidation does not occur in chronic, medicated schizophrenia patients
  • Patients addicted to cocaine fail to show normal sleep-dependent improvement on either motor or perceptual skill tasks during withdrawal, despite showing normal improvement during periods of drug use
  • Charles Bonnet syndrome, a visual disorder with hallucinations, can be induced by visual deprivation

These studies, published in journals including The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, and Science, have contributed to a new and exciting understanding of the role of sleep and dreaming in normal memory processing.