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Sleep and memory in the making. Are current concepts sufficient in children?

P. Peigneux


Memory consolidation is an active process wired in brain plasticity. How plasticity mechanisms develop and are modulated after learning is at the core of current models of sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nowadays, two main classes of sleep-related memory consolidation theories are proposed, namely system consolidation and synaptic homeostasis. However, novel models of consolidation emerge, that might better account for the highly dynamic and interactive processes of encoding and memory consolidation. Processing steps can take place at various temporal phases and be modulated by interactions with prior experiences and ongoing events. In this perspective, sleep might support (or not) memory consolidation processes under specific neurophysiological and environmental circumstances leading to enduring representations in long-term memory stores. We outline here a discussion about how current and emergent models account for the complexity and apparent inconsistency of empirical data. Additionally, models aimed at understanding neurophysiological and/or cognitive processes should not only provide a satisfactory explanation for the phenomena at stake, but also account for their ontogeny and the conditions that disrupt their organisation. Looking at the available literature, this developmental condition appears to remain unfulfilled when trying to understand the relationships between sleep, learning and memory consolida- tion processes, both in healthy children and in children with pathological conditions.

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