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Does Recall after Sleep-Dependent Memory Consolidation Reinstate Sensitivity to Retroactive Interference?

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068727
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Anatomy And Physiology
  • Physiological Processes
  • Sleep
  • Medicine
  • Mental Health
  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Memory
  • Neuropsychology
  • Social And Behavioral Sciences


Previous studies have shown that newly encoded memories are more resistant to retroactive interference when participants are allowed to sleep after learning the original material, suggesting a sleep-related strengthening of memories. In the present study, we investigated delayed, long-term effects of sleep vs. sleep deprivation (SD) on the first post-training night on memory consolidation and resistance to interference. On day 1, participants learned a list of unrelated word pairs (AB), either in the morning or in the evening, then spent the post-training night in a sleep or sleep deprivation condition, in a within-subject paradigm. On day 4, at the same time of day, they learned a novel list of word pairs (AC) in which 50% of the word pairs stemmed with the same word than in the AB list, resulting in retroactive interference. Participants had then to recall items from the AB list upon presentation of the “A” stem. Recall was marginally improved in the evening, as compared to the morning learning group. Most importantly, retroactive interference effects were found in the sleep evening group only, contrary to the hypothesis that sleep exerts a protective role against intrusion by novel but similar learning. We tentatively suggest that these results can be explained in the framework of the memory reconsolidation theory, stating that exposure to similar information sets back consolidated items in a labile form again sensitive to retroactive interference. In this context, sleep might not protect against interference but would promote an update of existing episodic memories while preventing saturation of the memory network due to the accumulation of dual traces.

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