The clay mineralogy of Pleistocene sediments of eleven sediment cores at three ODP sites from 30°N to 60°N northwestern Atlantic Ocean has been investigated. The sediments are characterized by the presence of random illite-vermiculite mixed layers (I-V) (up to 32% of the clay mineral assemblage). The I-V clays are much more abundant during interglacial periods than during glacial ones. They are attributed to detrital supply through erosion of high-latitude continental areas from which they are derived mainly from chemical weathering of micaceous phyllosilicates. Their spatial distribution and the specific conditions for their formation through weathering suggest that I-V mixed layers are mainly derived from the Canadian Shield. They were transported from their source to marine deposition areas by rivers, deep water masses or nepheloid layers. Due to the specific conditions required for the formation of I-V, its occurrence and abundance are used as a palaeoclimate and palaeocirculation proxy for northwestern Atlantic Pleistocene sediment.