Causal evidence for the role of REM sleep theta rhythm in contextual memory consolidation

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Science  13 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6287, pp. 812-816
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5252

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Let sleeping mice remember

The role of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep for memory consolidation has been discussed for a long time. Boyce et al. used optogenetics to inhibit theta oscillations in the mouse hippocampus during REM sleep (see the Perspective by Kocsis). Both object recognition memory and contextual fear memory were impaired. This consolidation mechanism occurred in a critical time window immediately after training. Disrupting the same system for similar durations during non-REM sleep or wakefulness had no effect on memory.

Science, this issue p. 812; see also p. 770


Rapid eye movement sleep (REMS) has been linked with spatial and emotional memory consolidation. However, establishing direct causality between neural activity during REMS and memory consolidation has proven difficult because of the transient nature of REMS and significant caveats associated with REMS deprivation techniques. In mice, we optogenetically silenced medial septum γ-aminobutyric acid–releasing (MSGABA) neurons, allowing for temporally precise attenuation of the memory-associated theta rhythm during REMS without disturbing sleeping behavior. REMS-specific optogenetic silencing of MSGABA neurons selectively during a REMS critical window after learning erased subsequent novel object place recognition and impaired fear-conditioned contextual memory. Silencing MSGABA neurons for similar durations outside REMS episodes had no effect on memory. These results demonstrate that MSGABA neuronal activity specifically during REMS is required for normal memory consolidation.

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