Study Objectives: The present study explored the sleep mechanisms which may support awareness of hidden regularities. Methods: Before sleep, 53 participants learned implicitly a lateralized variant of the serial response-time task in order to localize sensorimotor encoding either in the left or right hemisphere and induce implicit regularity representations. Electroencephalographic (EEG) activity was recorded at multiple electrodes during both task performance and sleep, searching for lateralized traces of the preceding activity during learning. Sleep EEG analysis focused on region-specific slow (9-12 Hz) and fast (13-16 Hz) sleep spindles during nonrapid eye movement sleep. Results: Fast spindle activity at those motor regions that were activated during learning increased with the amount of postsleep awareness. Independently of side of learning, spindle activity at right frontal and fronto-central regions was involved: there, fast spindles increased with the transformation of sequence knowledge from implicit before sleep to explicit after sleep, and slow spindles correlated with individual abilities of gaining awareness. These local modulations of sleep spindles corresponded to regions with greater presleep activation in participants with postsleep explicit knowledge. Conclusions: Sleep spindle mechanisms are related to explicit awareness (1) by tracing the activation of motor cortical and right-hemisphere regions which had stronger involvement already during learning and (2) by recruitment of individually consolidated processing modules in the right hemisphere. The integration of different sleep spindle mechanisms with functional states during wake collectively supports the gain of awareness of previously experienced regularities, with a special role for the right hemisphere.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)