Melatonin during a Nap Fosters Learning

Sleep helps to protect and renew hippocampus-dependent declarative learning. Less is known about forms of learning that mainly engage the dopaminergic reward system. Animal studies showed that exogenous melatonin modulates the responses of the dopaminergic reward system and acts as a neuroprotectant promoting memory. In humans, melatonin is mainly secreted in darkness during evening hours supporting sleep. In this study, we investigate the effects of a short period of daytime sleep (nap) and endogenous melatonin on reward learning. Twenty-seven healthy, adult students took part in an experiment, either taking a 90-min afternoon nap or watching videos (within-subject design). Before and after the sleep vs. wake interval, saliva melatonin levels and reward learning were measured, and in the nap condition, a polysomnogram was obtained. Reward learning was assessed using a two-alternative probabilistic reinforcement-learning task. Sleep itself and subjective arousal or valence had no significant effects on reward learning.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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