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Sleep constitutes a privileged state for new memories to reactivate and consolidate. Previous work has demonstrated that consolidation can be bolstered experimentally either via delivery of reminder cues (targeted memory reactivation [TMR]) or via noninvasive brain stimulation geared toward enhancing endogenous sleep rhythms. Here, we combined both approaches, controlling the timing of TMR cues with respect to ongoing slow-oscillation (SO) phases. Prior to sleep, participants learned associations between unique words and a set of repeating images (e.g., car) while hearing a prototypical image sound (e.g., engine starting). Memory performance on an immediate test vs. a test the next morning quantified overnight memory consolidation. Importantly, two image sounds were designated as TMR cues, with one cue delivered at SO UP states and the other delivered at SO DOWN states. A novel sound was used as a TMR control condition. Behavioral results revealed a significant reduction of overnight forgetting for words associated with UP-state TMR compared with words associated with DOWN-state TMR. Electrophysiological results showed that UP-state cueing led to enhancement of the ongoing UP state and was followed by greater spindle power than DOWN-state cueing. Moreover, UP-state (and not DOWN-state) cueing led to reinstatement of target image representations. Together, these results unveil the behavioral and mechanistic effects of delivering reminder cues at specific phases of endogenous sleep rhythms and mark an important step for the endeavor to experimentally modulate memories during sleep.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





closed-loop stimulation, memory consolidation, sleep, slow oscillation, targeted memory reactivation, Humans, Acoustic Stimulation, Memory Consolidation, Cues, Sleep, Learning