Offline processing of memories induced by perceptual visual learning during subsequent wakefulness and sleep: A behavioral study.
Matarazzo L., Frankó E., Maquet P., Vogels R.
To further characterize perceptual memory consolidation during sleep, we used a coarse orientation discrimination task in which participants had to discriminate the orientation of orthogonal gratings occluded by increasing levels of noise. In a first study (N = 11), we showed that the learning effect in this task is retinotopic (position-specific) and orientation specific. In a second experiment, we assessed the effect of nocturnal sleep, as opposed to the effect of time, on perceptual learning. A first group of participants was trained in the morning, tested in the evening and retested the next morning (morning-evening-morning, MEM, N = 11); a second group was trained in the evening, tested the next morning, and retested in the evening (evening-morning-evening; EME; N = 12). Between training and testing, EME subjects improved significantly more (after a night of sleep) than MEM subjects (after 12 waking hours). Similarly, between test and retest, performance of MEM subjects (after a full night of sleep) improved significantly more than in EME subjects (after 12 further waking hours). These results suggest a beneficial effect of sleep on coarse orientation discrimination. Further studies are needed to characterize the neural correlates of this perceptual learning and the offline consolidation of perceptual memory.