Sleep is central for our ability to transform newly acquired information into stable memory traces. A process hypothesized to be mediated by unique brain oscillations found solely during sleep, first in foremost the <1 Hz slow oscillation, which initiate a reactivation of the information to be consolidated. But what is the temporal relation between sleep slow oscillations and memory reactivation?
Together with Bernhard Staresina from the University of Oxford, Hong-Viet V. Ngo recently published a study utilizing targeted memory reactivation (TMR): a technique to externally drive reactivation by exposing sleeping subjects to auditory reminder cues. Using this approach, they compared the impact of slow oscillation phase on the TMR outcome, i.e. they contrasted a cueing phase-locked to slow oscillation peaks (up-states) vs. cues presenting during slow oscillation troughs (or down-states). Their results show that up-state cueing led to a significantly lower forgetting than down-state cueing. Moreover, electrophysiological brain patterns reflecting reactivated information were more pronounced after up-state cueing. Altogether these results provide important insight for the endeavor to experimentally modulate memories during sleep.
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