An opportunistic theory of cellular and systems consolidation

Sara C. Mednick, Denise J. Cai, Tristan Shuman, Stephan Anagnostaras, John T. Wixted

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


Memories are often classified as hippocampus dependent or independent, and sleep has been found to facilitate both, but in different ways. In this Opinion, we explore the optimal neural state for cellular and systems consolidation of hippocampus-dependent memories that benefit from sleep. We suggest that these two kinds of consolidation, which are ordinarily treated separately, overlap in time and jointly benefit from a period of reduced interference (during which no new memories are formed). Conditions that result in reduced interference include slow wave sleep (SWS), NMDA receptor antagonists, benzodiazepines, alcohol and acetylcholine antagonists. We hypothesize that the consolidation of hippocampal-dependent memories might not depend on SWS per se. Instead, the brain opportunistically consolidates previously encoded memories whenever the hippocampus is not otherwise occupied by the task of encoding new memories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-514
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'An opportunistic theory of cellular and systems consolidation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this