Slow-wave sleep is an optimal opportunity for memory consolidation: when encoding occurs in the presence of a sensory cue, delivery of that cue during sleep enhances retrieval of associated memories. Recent studies suggest that cues might promote consolidation by inducing neural reinstatement of cue-associated content during sleep, but direct evidence for such mechanisms is scant, and the relevant brain areas supporting these processes are poorly understood. Here, we address these gaps by combining a novel olfactory cueing paradigm with an object-location memory task and simultaneous EEG-fMRI recording in human subjects. Using pattern analysis of fMRI ensemble activity, we find that presentation of odor cues during sleep promotes reactivation of category-level information in ventromedial prefrontal cortex that significantly correlates with post-sleep memory performance. In identifying the potential mechanisms by which odor cues selectively modulate memory in the sleeping brain, these findings bring unique insights into elucidating how and what we remember.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)