Sculpting memory during sleep: concurrent consolidation and forgetting

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2017 Jun;44:20-27. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2017.02.012. Epub 2017 Mar 6.


There is compelling evidence that sleep actively supports the formation of long-lasting memory representations. Experimental cuing of memories proved that neural replay of representations during sleep plays a causal role for this consolidation, which has also been shown to promote neocortical synaptic plasticity and spine formation. Concurrently, sleep has been proposed to facilitate forgetting through processes of synaptic renormalisation. This view received indirect support by findings in humans of sleep enhancing TMS-evoked plasticity and capabilities for encoding new information. First direct behavioural evidence of sleep inducing forgetting has only recently emerged after encoding large amounts of stimuli in adults. We propose forgetting complements sleep-dependent consolidation and facilitates gist abstraction especially at high memory loads, when reactivation-based consolidation reaches capacity limits.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Neocortex / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology