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ISRN Physiology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 619319, 17 pages
Review Article

Neurophysiological Basis of Sleep’s Function on Memory and Cognition

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and Behavior Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 419 Tobin Hall, 135 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA 01003, USA

Received 17 February 2013; Accepted 19 March 2013

Academic Editors: X. Gasull, A. W. Midgley, Y. Ootsuka, and A. Tse

Copyright © 2013 Rebecca M. C. Spencer. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A wealth of recent studies support a function of sleep on memory and cognitive processing. At a physiological level, sleep supports memory in a number of ways including neural replay and enhanced plasticity in the context of reduced ongoing input. This paper presents behavioral evidence for sleep’s role in selective remembering and forgetting of declarative memories, in generalization of these memories, and in motor skill consolidation. Recent physiological data reviewed suggests how these behavioral changes might be supported by sleep. Importantly, in reviewing these findings, an integrated view of how distinct sleep stages uniquely contribute to memory processing emerges. This model will be useful in developing future behavioral and physiological studies to test predictions that emerge.