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Sleep underpins the plasticity of language production

Gaskell, M. Gareth; Warker, Jill; Lindsay, Shane; Frost, Rebecca; Guest, James; Snowdon, Reza; Stackhouse, Abigail


M. Gareth Gaskell

Jill Warker

Rebecca Frost

James Guest

Reza Snowdon

Abigail Stackhouse


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.


Gaskell, M. G., Warker, J., Lindsay, S., Frost, R., Guest, J., Snowdon, R., & Stackhouse, A. (2014). Sleep underpins the plasticity of language production. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 25(7), 1457-1465.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 4, 2014
Online Publication Date Jun 3, 2014
Publication Date 2014-07
Deposit Date May 13, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2015
Journal Psychological science
Print ISSN 0956-7976
Electronic ISSN 1467-9280
Publisher Association for Psychological Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 7
Pages 1457-1465
Keywords Sleep, Plasticity, Phonotactic constraints, Speech errors, Learning, Slow-wave sleep, Open data, Open materials
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article published in Psychological science, 2014, v.25 which can be found at:


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