Publication:
Targeted Memory Reactivation during Sleep Adaptively Promotes the Strengthening or Weakening of Overlapping Memories.

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Date
2017-07-10
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Abstract
System memory consolidation is conceptualized as an active process whereby newly encoded memory representations are strengthened through selective memory reactivation during sleep. However, our learning experience is highly overlapping in content (i.e., shares common elements), and memories of these events are organized in an intricate network of overlapping associated events. It remains to be explored whether and how selective memory reactivation during sleep has an impact on these overlapping memories acquired during awake time. Here, we test in a group of adult women and men the prediction that selective memory reactivation during sleep entails the reactivation of associated events and that this may lead the brain to adaptively regulate whether these associated memories are strengthened or pruned from memory networks on the basis of their relative associative strength with the shared element. Our findings demonstrate the existence of efficient regulatory neural mechanisms governing how complex memory networks are shaped during sleep as a function of their associative memory strength.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Numerous studies have demonstrated that system memory consolidation is an active, selective, and sleep-dependent process in which only subsets of new memories become stabilized through their reactivation. However, the learning experience is highly overlapping in content and thus events are encoded in an intricate network of related memories. It remains to be explored whether and how memory reactivation has an impact on overlapping memories acquired during awake time. Here, we show that sleep memory reactivation promotes strengthening and weakening of overlapping memories based on their associative memory strength. These results suggest the existence of an efficient regulatory neural mechanism that avoids the formation of cluttered memory representation of multiple events and promotes stabilization of complex memory networks.
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EEG, episodic memory, reactivation, sleep, strengthening, weakening
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