No effect of targeted memory reactivation during sleep on retention of vocabulary in adolescents

Ines Wilhelm*, Thomas Schreiner, Jonas Beck, Björn Rasch

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


Re-exposure of newly acquired vocabulary during sleep improves later memory recall in healthy adults. The success of targeted memory reactivation (TMR) during sleep presumably depends on the presence of slow oscillations (i.e., EEG activity at a frequency of about 0.75 Hz). As slow oscillating activity is at its maximum during adolescence, we hypothesized that TMR is even more beneficial at this developmental stage. In the present study, adolescents aged 11 to 13 learnt Dutch vocabulary in the evening and were tested on recall performance the next morning. Half of the words were presented via loudspeakers during post-learning periods of NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) sleep in order to stimulate memory reactivation. Unexpectedly, TMR during sleep did not improve memory on the behavioral level in adolescents. On the oscillatory level, successful reactivation during sleep resulted in the characteristic increase in theta power over frontal brain regions, as reported in adults. However, we observed no increase in spindle power during successful reactivation. Possible factors that may explain the lacking effect of TMR in adolescents in this study such as differences in learning abilities and pre-sleep performance levels are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4255
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)4255
Publication statusPublished - 06.03.2020


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