Fact retrieval and memory consolidation for a movement sequence: Bidirectional effects of 'unrelated' cognitive tasks on procedural memory

Rachel Tibi, Zohar Eviatar, Avi Karni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The generation of long-term memory for motor skills can be modulated by subsequent motor experiences that interfere with the consolidation process. Recent studies suggest that even a non-motor task may adversely affect some aspects of motor sequence memory. Here we show that motor sequence memory can be either enhanced or reduced, by different cognitive tasks. Participants were trained in performing finger movement sequences. Fully explicit instructions about the target sequence were given before practice. The buildup of procedural knowledge was tested at three time-points: immediately before training (T1), after practice (T2), and 24 hours later (T3). Each participant performed the task on two separate occasions; training on a different movement sequence on each occasion. In one condition, interference, participants performed a non-motor task immediately after T2. Half the participants solved simple math problems and half performed a simple semantic judgment task. In the baseline condition there was no additional task. All participants improved significantly between T1 and T2 (within-session gains). In addition, in the baseline condition, performance significantly improved between T2 and T3 (delayed 'off-line' gains). Solving math problems significantly enhanced these delayed gains in motor performance, whereas performing semantic decisions significantly reduced delayed gains compared to baseline. Thus, procedural motor memory consolidation can be either enhanced or inhibited by subsequent cognitive experiences. These effects do not require explicit or implicit new learning. The retrieval of unrelated, non-motor, well established knowledge can modulate procedural memory.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere80270
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
StatePublished - 7 Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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