Enhancing memory consolidation via wakeful rest in healthy people and amnesic patients

Dewar, M. 1, 2

1 Department of Psychology, School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK
2 Human Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

New memories consolidate over time, and this process has been associated with sleep. Recent work in humans and rodents suggests that wakeful rest, too, benefits consolidation. I will report behavioural work from my lab showing that healthy people retain new episodic memories better when learning is followed immediately by a 10-minute wakeful rest than by an unrelated cognitive task. This memory boost is maintained over several weeks, indicating that a brief wakeful rest has a long-lasting beneficial effect upon new memories. I will also report some of our work in amnesic patients, in whom memory consolidation is assumed to be impaired profoundly. Our data show that episodic memory retention can be improved substantially in many amnesic patients when new learning is followed immediately by a brief wakeful rest. Notably, this memory boost lasts for at least 7 days. I will discuss these findings in healthy people and amnesic patients within the theoretical framework of consolidation and offline replay, proposing that wakeful rest provides optimal conditions for early consolidation, due to minimal novel encoding. Moreover, I will put forward that memory consolidation is at least partially intact in many amnesic patients, but that this process is disrupted markedly by novel encoding.