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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jun 26;109(26):10575-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201072109. Epub 2012 Jun 12.

Memory stabilization with targeted reactivation during human slow-wave sleep.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour and Behavioral Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


It is believed that neural representations of recent experiences become reactivated during sleep, and that this process serves to stabilize associated memories in long-term memory. Here, we initiated this reactivation process for specific memories during slow-wave sleep. Participants studied 50 object-location associations with object-related sounds presented concurrently. For half of the associations, the related sounds were re-presented during subsequent slow-wave sleep while participants underwent functional MRI. Compared with control sounds, related sounds were associated with increased activation of right parahippocampal cortex. Postsleep memory accuracy was positively correlated with sound-related activation during sleep in various brain regions, including the thalamus, bilateral medial temporal lobe, and cerebellum. In addition, postsleep memory accuracy was also positively correlated with pre- to postsleep changes in parahippocampal-medial prefrontal connectivity during retrieval of reactivated associations. Our results suggest that the brain is differentially activated by studied and unstudied sounds during deep sleep and that the thalamus and medial temporal lobe are involved in establishing the mnemonic consequences of externally triggered reactivation of associative memories.

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