An online experiment that presents challenges for translating rest-related gains in visual detail memory from the laboratory to naturalistic settings

Emmi Leetham, Tamlyn Watermeyer, Michael Craig*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


New memories are labile and consolidate over time. Contemporary findings demonstrate that, like sleep, awake quiescence supports consolidation: people remember more new memories if they experience a brief period of post-encoding quiet rest than sensory processing. Furthermore, it was recently demonstrated that the quality of new memories can also be enhanced significantly by awake quiescence. This phenomenon offers great applied potential, for example, in education and eyewitness testimony settings. However, the translation of rest-related gains from the laboratory to everyday life remains poorly characterised and findings are mixed. Here, we report follow-on evidence demonstrating that rest-related gains in visual detail memory may be more challenging to achieve in naturalistic than laboratory-based settings. In contrast to established laboratory findings, using an online version of an established consolidation paradigm, we observed no memory benefit of post-encoding quiescence, relative to an engaging perceptual task, in the retention of detailed visual memories as measured through a lure discrimination task. This null finding could not be explained by intentional rehearsal in those who rested or between-group differences in participants’ demographics or mental state, including fatigue and mood. Crucially, post-experimental reports indicated that those in the rest group experienced challenges in initiating and maintaining a state of quiescence, which may account for our null finding. Based on these findings, we propose three areas of focus for future work should rest-related gains in memory be translated from the lab to field: (1) to establish the specific environmental and individual conditions that are conducive and detrimental to awake consolidation, (2) to understand the barriers to initiating and maintaining a state of quiescence in naturalistic settings, and (3) to examine how knowledge of quiescence and its cognitive benefits can encourage the initiation and maintenance of states that are conductive to awake consolidation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0290811
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2024

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