Sleep-Dependent Learning and Practice-Dependent Deterioration in an Orientation Discrimination Task

Sara C. Mednick, Sean P.A. Drummond, Geoffrey M. Boynton, Ed Awh, John Serences

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Learning new information requires practice. The degree of learning can be influenced by the amount of practice and whether subjects sleep between sessions. Over-practice, however, can lead to performance deterioration. The interaction between practice-dependent deterioration and sleep-dependent learning needs more study. We examine whether the amount of practice before sleep alters learning, and whether prior sleep protects against deterioration. Two groups (N = 33) were tested three times across two days on an orientation discrimination task. The High practice group was tested twice before a night of sleep and once after, at 9 a.m., 7 p.m., and 9 a.m. The Low practice group was tested once before a night of sleep and twice after, at 7 p.m., 9 a.m., and 7 p.m. Overall, both groups showed (1) deterioration with repeated, within-day testing, (2) performance improvement only after a night of sleep, (3) similar amounts of sleep-dependent learning and practice-dependent deterioration. In summary, we found that sleep resets visual contrast thresholds to a lower baseline (i.e., produces learning), but does not prevent over-practice deterioration effects. Likewise, over-practice deterioration does not influence the magnitude of overnight learning on this task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-272
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • crowding
  • deterioration
  • learning
  • sleep
  • vision

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