Recurrent boosting effects of short inactivity delays on performance: an ERPs study

BMC Res Notes. 2009 Aug 26;2:170. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-2-170.


Background: Recent studies investigating off-line processes of consolidation in motor learning have demonstrated a sudden, short-lived improvement in performance after 5-30 minutes of post-training inactivity. Here, we investigated further this behavioral boost in the context of the probabilistic serial reaction time task, a paradigm of implicit sequence learning. We looked both at the electrophysiological correlates of the boost effect and whether this phenomenon occurs at the initial training session only.

Findings: Reaction times consistently improved after a 30-minute break within two sessions spaced four days apart, revealing the reproducibility of the boost effect. Importantly, this improvement was unrelated to the acquisition of the sequential regularities in the material. At both sessions, event-related potentials (ERPs) analyses disclosed a boost-associated increased amplitude of a first negative component, and shorter latencies for a second positive component.

Conclusion: Behavioral and ERP data suggest increased processing fluency after short delays, which may support transitory improvements in attentional and/or motor performance and participate in the final setting up of the neural networks involved in the acquisition of novel skills.