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Walker_NYAS_2009 - T HE YEAR IN COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE 2009...

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THE YEAR IN COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE 2009 The Role of Sleep in Cognition and Emotion Matthew P. Walker Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychology & Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, California As critical as waking brain function is to cognition, an extensive literature now indi- cates that sleep supports equally important, different yet complementary operations. This review will consider recent and emerging findings implicating sleep and specific sleep-stage physiologies in the modulation, regulation, and even preparation of cog- nitive and emotional brain processes. First, evidence for the role of sleep in memory processing will be discussed, principally focusing on declarative memory. Second, at a neural level several mechanistic models of sleep-dependent plasticity underlying these effects will be reviewed, with a synthesis of these features offered that may explain the ordered structure of sleep, and the orderly evolution of memory stages. Third, accumu- lating evidence for the role of sleep in associative memory processing will be discussed, suggesting that the long-term goal of sleep may not be the strengthening of individual memory items, but, instead, their abstracted assimilation into a schema of generalized knowledge. Fourth, the newly emerging benefit of sleep in regulating emotional brain reactivity will be considered. Finally, and building on this latter topic, a novel hypoth- esis and framework of sleep-dependent affective brain processing will be proposed, culminating in testable predictions and translational implications for mood disorders. Key words: sleep; learning; memory; encoding; consolidation; association; integration; plasticity; emotion; affect; non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep; rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep; offline; slow wave sleep (SWS), slow-wave activity (SWA), sleep spindles “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made.” Allan Rechtschaffen University of Chicago Sleep Laboratory Smithsonian, November 1978 Introduction A perplexing question continues to elude scientific judgment: “Why do we sleep?” In accepting the utility of evolution, as candidly stated by pioneering sleep researcher Allan Rechtschaffen, sleep is likely to support a fun- damental need of the organism. Yet, despite Address for correspondence: Matthew P. Walker, Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychology & Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-1650, USA. Voice: 510-642-5292; fax: 510-642-5293. [email protected] the vast amount of time this state takes from our lives, we still lack any consensus function for sleep. In part, this is perhaps because sleep, like its counterpart wakefulness, may serve not one but many functions, for brain and body alike.
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