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Nat Commun. 2015 Oct 28;6:8729. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9729.

Auditory feedback blocks memory benefits of cueing during sleep.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Psychology, University of Fribourg, 1701 Fribourg, Switzerland.
Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, Clinic of Affective Disorders and General Psychiatry, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland.
Zurich Center for Interdisciplinary Sleep Research (ZiS), 8091 Zurich, Switzerland.


It is now widely accepted that re-exposure to memory cues during sleep reactivates memories and can improve later recall. However, the underlying mechanisms are still unknown. As reactivation during wakefulness renders memories sensitive to updating, it remains an intriguing question whether reactivated memories during sleep also become susceptible to incorporating further information after the cue. Here we show that the memory benefits of cueing Dutch vocabulary during sleep are in fact completely blocked when memory cues are directly followed by either correct or conflicting auditory feedback, or a pure tone. In addition, immediate (but not delayed) auditory stimulation abolishes the characteristic increases in oscillatory theta and spindle activity typically associated with successful reactivation during sleep as revealed by high-density electroencephalography. We conclude that plastic processes associated with theta and spindle oscillations occurring during a sensitive period immediately after the cue are necessary for stabilizing reactivated memory traces during sleep.

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