Face memory, including the ability to recall the name of a familiar person, is often crucial in social interactions, and like many other memory functions, it may rely on sleep. We investigated whether targeted memory reactivation during sleep could improve associative and perceptual aspects of face memory. Participants studied 80 face-name pairs, and then a subset of spoken names was presented unobtrusively during a daytime nap. This reactivation preferentially improved recall for those face-name pairs, as modulated by two factors related to sleep quality. That is, the memory benefit was positively correlated with the duration of stage N3 sleep (slow-wave sleep) and with the extent to which cues presented during SWS did not produce a sleep disruption indexed by increased alpha-band electroencephalographic activity in the 5 seconds after a cue. Follow-up analyses showed that a memory benefit from presenting spoken names during sleep was evident in participants with high amounts of SWS or with low amounts of sleep disruption. We conclude that sleep reactivation can strengthen memory for specific face-name associations and that the effectiveness of reactivation depends on uninterrupted N3 sleep.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience