Poster A85, Saturday, March 25, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Sensory stimulation during sleep to selectively strengthen memories: Sounds can be arbitrarily associated with visuo-spatial learning
Larry Cheng1, James Antony2, Paula Pacheco2, Ken Norman2, Ken Paller1; 1Northwestern University, 2Princeton University
A powerful way to study the memory functions of sleep, Targeted Memory Reactivation (TMR), requires stimuli that act as reminders of previous learning. In TMR studies of learning object-location associations, for example, each object was accompanied by its characteristic sound (e.g., door-creak, dog-bark) during spatial learning episodes. The same sounds were then presented softly during slow-wave sleep. Although selective memory benefits have been repeatedly demonstrated with these procedures, not all objects have characteristic sounds. It is thus important to determine whether spatial learning can also be improved during sleep when TMR is applied using arbitrary sounds. Here we report findings showing that memory for object-location associations can be improved by reactivation during sleep even when sounds are not semantically related to the objects. Participants first memorized associations between environmental sounds and random objects (famous faces, famous landmarks, and common visual objects). Next, they learned a random screen location for each object. During a subsequent afternoon nap session, memories were cued using TMR with half of the sounds. When spatial recall was tested later, memories were significantly more accurate for cued objects than for uncued objects. These findings broaden the generalizability of auditory TMR for spatial learning to circumstances when idiosyncratic sounds are not available. Characteristic sounds are unnecessary if associations with novel sounds can be acquired. The TMR methodology can thus be used with a wide variety of learning tasks, both to study mechanisms of memory consolidation and in applications when improved learning could be beneficial.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic