The complexities of memory suppression
In February 2011, a study carried out at the CRC (published in The Journal of Neuroscience(2)) focused on the possible role of sleep in sorting out important information (to be remembered) and information that isn’t really relevant (to be forgotten). The experimental protocol used by the researchers prefigured the one that was used for the work published later in Plos One: volunteers were shown words, some of which had to be remembered and others that had to be forgotten. After having been confronted with all the items, half of the participants were able to sleep the following night while the other half was deprived of sleep. Three days after the learning phase, the subjects were invited to take part in a memory test relating to all the words presented; these words were placed among the same number of control words. Why wait three days? So that tiredness wouldn’t influence the performance and brain activations of the participants who had stayed awake the night after the learning phase.
(2) G. Rauchs, D. Feyers, B. Landeau, C. Bastin, A. Luxen, P. Maquet, F. Collette, Sleep Contributes to the Strengthening of Some Memories Over Others, Depending on Hippocampal Activity at Learning, dans The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(7), 2563-2568, 2011.