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Sleep preserves original and distorted memory traces

Cairney, Scott A.; Lindsay, Shane; Paller, Ken A.; Gaskell, M. Gareth


Scott A. Cairney

Ken A. Paller

M. Gareth Gaskell


Retrieval facilitates the long-term retention of memories, but may also enable stored representations to be updated with new information that is available at the time of retrieval. However, if information integrated during retrieval is erroneous, future recall can be impaired: a phenomenon known as retrieval-induced distortion (RID). Whether RID causes an “overwriting” of existing memory traces or leads to the co-existence of original and distorted memory traces is unknown. Because sleep enhances memory consolidation, the effects of sleep after RID can provide novel insights into the structure of updated memories. As such, we investigated the effects of sleep on memory consolidation following RID. Participants encoded word locations and were then tested before (T1) and after (T2) an interval of sleep or wakefulness. At T2, the majority of words were placed closer to the locations retrieved at T1 than to the studied locations, consistent with RID. After sleep compared with after wake, the T2-retrieved locations were closer to both the studied locations and the T1-retrieved locations. These findings suggest that RID leads to the formation of an additional memory trace that corresponds to a distorted variant of the same encoding event, which is strengthened alongside the original trace during sleep. More broadly, these data provide evidence for the importance of sleep in the preservation and adaptive updating of memories.


Cairney, S. A., Lindsay, S., Paller, K. A., & Gaskell, M. G. (2018). Sleep preserves original and distorted memory traces. Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior, 99, 39-44.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 5, 2017
Online Publication Date Oct 16, 2017
Publication Date 2018-02
Deposit Date Sep 15, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 22, 2018
Journal Cortex
Print ISSN 0010-9452
Electronic ISSN 1973-8102
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 99
Pages 39-44
Keywords Sleep; Memory; Consolidation; Retrieval; Distortion
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Sleep preserves original and distorted memory traces; Journal Title: Cortex; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


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Copyright Statement
© 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.<br /> org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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