Post-encoding task engagement not attentional load is detrimental to awake consolidation

Michael Craig*, Jo Greer

*Corresponding author for this work

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The fate of new memories depends partly on the cognitive state experienced immediately following encoding. Wakeful rest, relative to task engagement, benefits retention and this effect is typically explained through a consolidation account: rest is theorised to provide a state of minimal interference, which would otherwise disrupt consolidation. Yet, the determinants of consolidation interference, notably the contribution of attention, remain poorly characterised. Through a repeated measures design, we investigated attention load's impact on consolidation. In three phases, participants encountered a set of nonwords and underwent immediate recognition testing, experienced a 5-min delay condition, and completed a delayed recognition test for the nonwords. This cycle repeated for each phase before proceeding to the next. Delay conditions comprised of wakeful rest and two sustained attention to response tasks (SART) that were of low (SART-fixed) and high (SART-random) attention load. Immediate memory was matched across conditions, but delayed recognition was poorer after completing the SART-fixed and SART-random conditions, relative to rest. There was no difference between the two SART conditions. These data provide insights into the factors that contribute to the success of consolidation and indicate that the attention load of a task does not determine the magnitude of consolidation interference and associated forgetting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3025
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2024

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