Several paradigms of perceptual learning suggest that practice can trigger long-term, experience-dependent changes in the adult visual system of humans. As shown here, performance of a basic visual discrimination task improved after a normal night's sleep. Selective disruption of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep resulted in no performance gain during a comparable sleep interval, although non-REM slow-wave sleep disruption did not affect improvement. On the other hand, deprivation of REM sleep had no detrimental effects on the performance of a similar, but previously learned, task. These results indicate that a process of human memory consolidation, active during sleep, is strongly dependent on REM sleep.
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