Losing memories during sleep after targeted memory reactivation

Katharine C.N.S. Simon, Rebecca L. Gómez, Lynn Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Targeting memories during sleep opens powerful and innovative ways to influence the mind. We used targeted memory reactivation (TMR), which to date has been shown to strengthen learned episodes, to instead induce forgetting (TMR-Forget). Participants were first trained to associate the act of forgetting with an auditory forget tone. In a second, separate, task they learned object-sound-location pairings. Shortly thereafter, some of the object sounds were played during slow wave sleep, paired with the forget tone to induce forgetting. One week later, participants demonstrated lower recall of reactivated versus non-reactivated objects and impaired recognition memory and lowered confidence for the spatial location of the reactivated objects they failed to spontaneously recall. The ability to target specific episodic memories for forgetting during sleep has implications for developing novel therapeutic techniques for psychological disorders such as PTSD and phobias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-17
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Episodic memory
  • Forgetting
  • Sleep
  • Targeted memory reactivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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