What is it about?

This study found that sleep helps improve explicit memory (conscious recollection of information) but does not affect implicit memory (automatic recollection of information). 89 participants were randomly assigned to either a sleep or wake group and given an incidental learning task. After a 12-hour interval, the sleep group performed better on a test of explicit memory, while both groups performed similarly on a test of implicit memory. These results suggest that sleep may play a role in consolidating incidentally learned information into a more conscious representation of knowledge.

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Why is it important?

Our study provides insight into the role of sleep in memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is the process by which newly acquired information is converted into a more stable and permanent form, making it more easily retrievable in the future. Understanding the specific ways in which sleep contributes to this process can help us better understand how we learn and remember information. Furthermore, the findings have practical implications for how we can optimize our sleep to improve memory. The results suggest that getting a good night's sleep may be especially beneficial for consolidating explicit memories incidentally extracted from environmental regularities. Additionally, this study adds to the growing body of research on the relationship between sleep and memory, which can help inform our understanding of how sleep affects overall brain function.


This research is a collaboration between myself and my graduate student Johanna Sánchez. After completing my doctoral research on the dissociation between implicit and explicit memory caused by forgetting, I became curious about whether this type of dissociation would be affected by sleep or wakefulness. After working hard for a few years, we were able to arrive at the findings presented in this article.

Dr. Ricardo M Tamayo
Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: From incidental learning to explicit memory: The role of sleep after exposure to a serial reaction time task, Acta Psychologica, June 2021, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2021.103325.
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