Sleep Underpins the Plasticity of Language Production

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1465
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • learning
  • open data
  • open materials
  • phonotactic constraints
  • plasticity
  • production
  • sleep
  • slow-wave sleep
  • speech errors


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