Hippocampal ripples down-regulate synapses

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Science  30 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6383, pp. 1524-1527
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0702

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Rebalancing mechanisms during sleep

Synapses are often strengthened during wake periods and thus need to be homeostatically readjusted during sleep. During slow-wave sleep, synaptic depression is dominant. Sharp wave and ripple events are transient high-frequency field oscillations that occur spontaneously during slow-wave sleep in the brain. Norimoto et al. found that these events induced long-term depression of hippocampal synapses and may thus help to refine recently acquired memories (see the Perspective by Draguhn).

Science, this issue p. 1524; see also p. 1461


The specific effects of sleep on synaptic plasticity remain unclear. We report that mouse hippocampal sharp-wave ripple oscillations serve as intrinsic events that trigger long-lasting synaptic depression. Silencing of sharp-wave ripples during slow-wave states prevented the spontaneous down-regulation of net synaptic weights and impaired the learning of new memories. The synaptic down-regulation was dependent on the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor and selective for a specific input pathway. Thus, our findings are consistent with the role of slow-wave states in refining memory engrams by reducing recent memory-irrelevant neuronal activity and suggest a previously unrecognized function for sharp-wave ripples.

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