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Despite the known behavioral benefits of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, discrete neural oscillatory events in human scalp electroencephalography (EEG) linked with behavior have not been discovered. This knowledge gap hinders mechanistic understanding of the function of sleep, as well as the development of biophysical models and REM-based causal interventions. We designed a detection algorithm to identify bursts of activity in high-density, scalp EEG within theta (4-8 Hz) and alpha (8-13 Hz) bands during REM sleep. Across 38 nights of sleep, we characterized the burst events (i.e., count, duration, density, peak frequency, amplitude) in healthy, young male and female human participants (38; 21F) and investigated burst activity in relation to sleep-dependent memory tasks: hippocampal-dependent episodic verbal memory and nonhippocampal visual perceptual learning. We found greater burst count during the more REM-intensive second half of the night (p  0.05). Moreover, increased alpha burst power was associated with increased overnight forgetting for episodic memory (p 

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





REM sleep, electrophysiology, forgetting, learning, memory, sleep, Humans, Male, Female, Sleep, REM, Adult, Electroencephalography, Young Adult, Learning, Theta Rhythm, Memory, Episodic