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Sleep-dependent memory consolidation in infants protects new episodic memories from existing semantic memories

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Friedrich,  Manuela
Department of Psychology, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany;
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Friederici,  Angela D.
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Friedrich, M., Mölle, M., Friederici, A. D., & Born, J. (2020). Sleep-dependent memory consolidation in infants protects new episodic memories from existing semantic memories. Nature Communications, 11(1): 1298. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-14850-8.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-75F3-5
Abstract
Any experienced event may be encoded and retained in detail as part of our episodic memory, and may also refer and contribute to our generalized knowledge stored in semantic memory. The beginnings of this declarative memory formation are only poorly understood. Even less is known about the interrelation between episodic and semantic memory during the earliest developmental stages. Here, we show that the formation of episodic memories in 14- to 17-month-old infants depends on sleep, subsequent to exposure to novel events. Infant brain responses reveal that, after sleep-dependent consolidation, the newly stored events are not processed semantically, although appropriate lexical-semantic memories are present and accessible by similar events that were not experienced before the nap. We propose that temporarily disabled semantic processing protects precise episodic memories from interference with generalized semantic memories. Selectively restricted semantic access could also trigger semantic refinement, and thus, might even improve semantic memory.