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Free Content The impact of sleep duration and subject intelligence on declarative and motor memory performance: how much is enough?

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Recent findings clearly demonstrate that daytime naps impart substantial memory benefits compared with equivalent periods of wakefulness. Using a declarative paired associates task and a procedural motor sequence task, this study examined the effect of two lengthier durations of nocturnal sleep [either a half night (3.5 h) or a full night (7.5 h) of sleep] on over-sleep changes in memory performance. We also assessed whether subject intelligence is associated with heightened task acquisition and, more importantly, whether greater intelligence translates to greater over-sleep declarative and procedural memory enhancement. Across both tasks, we demonstrate that postsleep performance gains are nearly equivalent, regardless of whether subjects obtain a half night or a full night of sleep. Remarkably, the over-sleep memory changes observed on both tasks are very similar to findings from studies examining performance following a daytime nap. Consistent with previous research, we also observed a strong positive correlation between amount of Stage 2 sleep and motor skill performance in the full-night sleep group. This finding contrasts with a highly significant correlation between spectral power in the spindle frequency band (12–15 Hz) and motor skill enhancement only in the half-night group, suggesting that sigma power and amount of Stage 2 sleep are both important for optimal motor memory processing. While subject intelligence correlated positively with acquisition and retest performance on both tasks, it did not correlate with over-sleep changes in performance on either task, suggesting that intelligence may not be a powerful modulator of sleep’s effect on memory performance.
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Keywords: declarative memory; intelligence; memory; motor memory; sleep; sleep duration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychiatry, Center for Sleep and Cognition, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA 2: Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Sleep, Department of Psychology, The City College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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