Sleep in children triggers rapid reorganization of memory-related brain processes

Charline Urbain*, Xavier De Tiège, Marc Op De Beeck, Mathieu Bourguignon, Vincent Wens, Denis Verheulpen, Patrick Van Bogaert, Philippe Peigneux

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Behavioral evidence shows that sleep is crucial for the consolidation of declarative memories in children as in adults. However, the underlying cerebral mechanisms remain virtually unexplored. Using magnetoencephalography, we investigated in children (8.0-12.5 years) the impact of sleep (90-minute nap) on the neurophysiological processes underlying the creation and consolidation of novel associations between unknown objects and their functions. Learning-dependent changes in brain activity were observed within hippocampal and parahippocampal regions, followed by sleep-dependent changes in the prefrontal cortex, whereas no equivalent change was observed after a similar period of wakeful rest. Hence, our results show that in school-age children a 90-minute daytime nap after learning is sufficient to trigger the reorganization of memory-related brain activity toward prefrontal areas, where it incorporates into pre-existing semantic knowledge. This functional reorganization process in children is similar to that observed in adults but occurs at a much faster rate, which may contribute to the development of the impressive learning skills that characterize childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Children
  • Consolidation
  • Hippocampus
  • MEG
  • Nap

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