When Sleep-Dependent Gist Extraction Goes Awry: False Composite Memories are Facilitated by Slow Wave Sleep

AbstractContemporary evidence suggests that sleep contributes to the extraction of gist from previously encoded experiences, a process that relies on compressed memory replay. While the functional significance of the time compression is not fully understood, a recent ‘temporal scaffolding’ model suggested that compression allows associating encoded events that happened in disparate times, a critical feature when extracting gist of a temporal nature. We examined this hypothesis using a novel behavioral paradigm. Subjects were first presented with word pairs that could form a new composite word if combined (e.g., car, pet --> carpet), and then tested on whether they falsely recognize seeing the composite word. When subjects napped in between exposure and testing, false memories of composite words increased, with reaction times for false recognition correlating to time spent in slow wave sleep. These results confirm the functional role of time compression in memory replay, supporting the temporal scaffolding model.

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