Learning increases human electroencephalographic coherence during subsequent slow sleep oscillations

Matthias Mölle*, Lisa Marshall, Steffen Gais, Jan Born

*Corresponding author for this work
152 Citations (Scopus)


Learning is assumed to induce specific changes in neuronal activity during sleep that serve the consolidation of newly acquired memories. To specify such changes, we measured electroencephalographic (EEG) coherence during performance on a declarative learning task (word pair associations) and subsequent sleep. Compared with a nonlearning control condition, learning performance was accompanied with a strong increase in coherence in several EEG frequency bands. During subsequent non-rapid eye movement sleep, coherence only marginally increased in a global analysis of EEG recordings. However, a striking and robust increase in learning-dependent coherence was found when analyses were performed time-locked to the occurrence of slow oscillations (<1 Hz). Specifically, the surface-positive half-waves of the slow oscillation resulting from widespread cortical depolarization were associated with distinctly enhanced coherence after learning in the slow-oscillatory, delta, slow-spindle, and gamma bands. The findings identify the depolarizing phase of the slow oscillations in humans as a time period particularly relevant for a reprocessing of memories in sleep.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number38
Pages (from-to)13963-13968
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 21.09.2004


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