Spatial reversal learning is robust to total sleep deprivation

Cathalijn H.C. Leenaars*, Ruud N.J.M.A. Joosten, Michiel Kramer, Ger Post, Leslie Eggels, Mark Wuite, Maurice Dematteis, Matthijs G.P. Feenstra, Eus J.W. Van Someren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Sleep deprivation affects cognitive functions that depend on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) such as cognitive flexibility, and the consolidation of newly learned information. The identification of cognitive processes that are either robustly sensitive or robustly insensitive to the same experimental sleep deprivation procedure, will allow us to better focus on the specific effects of sleep on cognition, and increase understanding of the mechanisms involved. In the present study we investigate whether sleep deprivation differentially affects the two separate cognitive processes of acquisition and consolidation of a spatial reversal task.After training on a spatial discrimination between two levers in a Skinner box, male Wistar rats were exposed to a reversal of the previously learned stimulus-response contingency. We first evaluated the effect of sleep deprivation on the acquisition of reversal learning. Performance on reversal learning after 12. h of sleep deprivation (n=12) was compared to performance after control conditions (n=12). The second experiment evaluated the effect of sleep deprivation on the consolidation of reversal learning; the first session of reversal learning was followed by 3. h of nap prevention (n=8) or undisturbed control conditions (n=8). The experiments had sufficient statistical power (0.90 and 0.81, respectively) to detect differences with medium effect sizes.Neither the acquisition, nor the consolidation, of reversal learning was affected by acute sleep deprivation. Together with previous findings, these results help to further delineate the role of sleep in cognitive processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-47
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2012

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