Nap and melatonin-induced changes in hippocampal activation and their role in verbal memory consolidation

Tali Gorfine, Yaara Yeshurun, Nava Zisapel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Overnight sleep contributes to memory consolidation; even a short nap improves memory performance. Such improvement has been linked to hippocampal activity during sleep. Melatonin has been shown to affect the human hippocampus and to induce 'sleep like' changes in brain activation. We therefore conducted and compared two functional magnetic resonance imaging studies: the first study assessed the effect of a 2-hr mid-day nap versus an equal amount of wakefulness on a verbal memory task (unrelated word pair association); the second assessed the effect of melatonin versus placebo (both conditions without nap) on a similar task. We report that following a nap relative to wakefulness, successful retrieval-related activation in the parahippocampus is decreased. A smaller decrease is seen in wakefulness with melatonin but not placebo. In parallel, an improvement in verbal memory recall was found after a nap compared with wakefulness but not with melatonin during wakefulness compared with placebo. Our findings demonstrate effects of melatonin that resemble those of sleep on verbal memory processing in the hippocampus thus suggesting that melatonin, like sleep, can initiate offline plastic changes underlying memory consolidation; they also suggest that concomitant rest without interferences is necessary for enhanced performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-342
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pineal Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Hippocampus
  • Melatonin
  • Memory
  • Nap
  • Sleep
  • Verbal


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