Effects of Sleep on Language and Motor Consolidation: Evidence of Domain General and Specific Mechanisms

Dafna Ben-Zion, Ella Gabitov, Anat Prior, Tali Bitan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study explores the effects of time and sleep on the consolidation of a novel language learning task containing both item-specific knowledge and the extraction of grammatical regularities. We also compare consolidation effects in language and motor sequence learning tasks, to ask whether consolidation mechanisms are domain general. Young adults learned to apply plural inflections to novel words based on morphophonological rules embedded in the input, and learned to type a motor sequence using a keyboard. Participants were randomly assigned into one of two groups, practicing each task during either the morning or evening hours. Both groups were retested 12 and 24 hours post-training. Performance on frequent trained items in the language task stabilized only following sleep, consistent with a hippocampal mechanism for item-specific learning. However, regularity extraction, indicated by generalization to untrained items in the linguistic task, as well as performance on motor sequence learning, improved 24 hours post-training, irrespective of the timing of sleep. This consolidation process is consistent with a frontostriatal skill-learning mechanism, common across the language and motor domains. This conclusion is further reinforced by cross-domain correlations at the individual level between improvement across 24 hours in the motor task and in the low-frequency trained items in the linguistic task, which involve regularity extraction. Taken together, our results at the group and individual levels suggest that some aspects of consolidation are shared across the motor and language domains, and more specifically, between motor sequence learning and grammar learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-213
Number of pages34
JournalNeurobiology of Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - 16 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Tali Bitan, National Institute for Neurobiology in Israel (NiPi), Award ID: 208-11-12. Tali Bitan, Israel Science Foundation, Award ID: 1052/16.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.


  • Consolidation
  • Grammar
  • Language
  • Morphology
  • Motor
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Neurology


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