Sleep Underpins the Plasticity of Language Production

Gaskell, M. G., Warker, J., Lindsay, S., Frost, R. L. A., Guest, J., Snowdon, R., & Stackhouse, A. (2014). Sleep Underpins the Plasticity of Language Production. Psychological Science, 25(7), 1457-1465. doi:10.1177/0956797614535937.
The constraints that govern acceptable phoneme combinations in speech perception and production have considerable plasticity. We addressed whether sleep influences the acquisition of new constraints and their integration into the speech-production system. Participants repeated sequences of syllables in which two phonemes were artificially restricted to syllable onset or syllable coda, depending on the vowel in that sequence. After 48 sequences, participants either had a 90-min nap or remained awake. Participants then repeated 96 sequences so implicit constraint learning could be examined, and then were tested for constraint generalization in a forced-choice task. The sleep group, but not the wake group, produced speech errors at test that were consistent with restrictions on the placement of phonemes in training. Furthermore, only the sleep group generalized their learning to new materials. Polysomnography data showed that implicit constraint learning was associated with slow-wave sleep. These results show that sleep facilitates the integration of new linguistic knowledge with existing production constraints. These data have relevance for systems-consolidation models of sleep.
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