Sleep loss disrupts the neural signature of successful learning
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Description: Sleep supports memory consolidation as well as next-day learning. The influential Active Systems account of offline consolidation suggests that sleep-associated memory processing paves the way for new learning, but empirical evidence in support of this idea is scarce. Using a within-subjects (N = 30), crossover design, we assessed behavioural and electrophysiological indices of episodic encoding after a night of sleep or total sleep deprivation in healthy adults (aged 18-25 years), and investigated whether behavioural performance was predicted by the overnight consolidation of episodic associations formed the previous day. Sleep supported memory consolidation and next-day learning, as compared to sleep deprivation. However, the magnitude of this sleep-associated consolidation benefit did not significantly predict the ability to form novel memories after sleep. Interestingly, sleep deprivation prompted a qualitative change in the neural signature of encoding: whereas 12-20 Hz beta desynchronization – an established marker of successful encoding – was observed after sleep, sleep deprivation disrupted beta desynchrony during successful learning. Taken together, these findings suggest that effective learning depends on sleep, but not necessarily sleep-associated consolidation. Link to preprint: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.11.16.468870