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

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Memory consolidation involves the reactivation of memory traces during sleep. If different memories are reactivated each night, how much do they interfere with one another? 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 objects. Each object was part of a semantically coherent group comprised of either one, two, or six items (e.g., six different cats). During sleep, sounds were unobtrusively presented to reactivate memories for half of the groups (e.g., “meow”). Memory benefits for cued versus non-cued items were independent of the number of items in the group, suggesting that reactivation occurs in a simultaneous and promiscuous manner. Intriguingly, sleep spindles and delta-theta power modulations were sensitive to group size, reflecting the extent of previous learning. Our results demonstrate that multiple memories may be consolidated in parallel without compromising each memory’s sleep-related benefit. These findings highlight alternative models for parallel consolidation that should be considered in future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number25
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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