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Multiple memories can be simultaneously reactivated during sleep as effectively as a single memory

By Eitan Schechtman, James W. Antony, Anna Lampe, Brianna J Wilson, Kenneth A. Norman, Ken A Paller

Posted 06 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/662015

Memory consolidation involves the reactivation of memory traces during sleep. If many memories are reactivated each night, how much do they interfere with one another? To explore this question, we examined whether reactivating multiple memories incurs a cost to sleep-related benefits by contrasting reactivation of multiple memories versus single memories during sleep. First, participants learned the on-screen location of different images. Each image was part of a semantically interconnected group (e.g., images of different cats). Groups were comprised of either one, two, or six images. During sleep, group-related sounds (e.g., "meow") were unobtrusively presented to reactivate memories for half of the groups. The benefit in location recall for cued versus non-cued items was independent of the number of items in the group, suggesting that reactivation occurs in a simultaneous, promiscuous manner. Intriguingly, sleep spindles and delta-theta power modulations were sensitive to group size and reflected the extent of previous learning. Our results demonstrate that multiple memories may be consolidated in parallel without compromising each memory's sleep-related benefit, suggesting that the brain's capacity for reactivation is not strictly limited by separate resources needed for individual memories. These findings highlight alternative models for parallel consolidation that should be considered in future studies. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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