The Role of Sleep in Neurocognitive Function

Matthew P. Walker

in The Oxford Handbook of Sleep and Sleep Disorders

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780195376203
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Role of Sleep in Neurocognitive Function

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  • Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology



As critical as waking brain function is to cognition, an extensive literature now indicates that sleep supports equally important, different, yet complementary operations. This chapter first considers evidence for the role of sleep in memory processing, 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, accumulating 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. Finally, the newly emerging benefit of sleep in regulating affective brain reactivity will be considered, leading to a framework of sleep-dependent emotional processing.

Keywords: Learning; Memory; Encoding; Consolidation; Integration; Plasticity; Emotion; Affect; EEG; fMRI

Article.  13471 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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