Chronic sleep deprivation differentially affects short and long-term operant memory inAplysia

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The induction, formation and maintenance of memory represent dynamic processes modulated by multiple factors including the circadian clock and sleep. Chronic sleep restriction has become common in modern society due to occupational and social demands. Given the impact of cognitive impairments associated with sleep deprivation, there is a vital need for a simple animal model in which to study the interactions between chronic sleep deprivation and memory. We used the marine mollusk Aplysia californica, with its simple nervous system, nocturnal sleep pattern and well-characterized learning paradigms, to assess the effects of two chronic sleep restriction paradigms on short-term (STM) and long-term (LTM) associative memory. The effects of sleep deprivation on memory were evaluated using the operant learning paradigm, learning that food is inedible, in which the animal associates a specific netted seaweed with failed swallowing attempts. We found that two nights of 6 h sleep deprivation occurring during the first or last half of the night inhibited both STM and LTM. Moreover, the impairment in STM persisted for more than 24 h. A milder, prolonged sleep deprivation paradigm consisting of 3 consecutive nights of 4 h sleep deprivation also blocked STM, but had no effect on LTM. These experiments highlight differences in the sensitivity of STM and LTM to chronic sleep deprivation. Moreover, these results establish Aplysia as a valid model for studying the interactions between chronic sleep deprivation and associative memory paving the way for future studies delineating the mechanisms through which sleep restriction affects memory formation.

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