Numerous studies demonstrate that post-training sleep benefits human memory. At the same time, emerging data suggest that other resting states may similarly facilitate consolidation. In order to identify the conditions under which non-sleep resting states benefit memory, we conducted an EEG (electroencephalographic) study of verbal memory retention across 15min of eyes-closed rest. Participants (n=26) listened to a short story and then either rested with their eyes closed, or else completed a distractor task for 15min. A delayed recall test was administered immediately following the rest period. We found, first, that quiet rest enhanced memory for the short story. Improved memory was associated with a particular EEG signature of increased slow oscillatory activity (<1Hz), in concert with reduced alpha (8-12Hz) activity. Mindwandering during the retention interval was also associated with improved memory. These observations suggest that a short period of quiet rest can facilitate memory, and that this may occur via an active process of consolidation supported by slow oscillatory EEG activity and characterized by decreased attention to the external environment. Slow oscillatory EEG rhythms are proposed to facilitate memory consolidation during sleep by promoting hippocampal-cortical communication. Our findings suggest that EEG slow oscillations could play a significant role in memory consolidation during other resting states as well.
Keywords: Alpha; EEG; Memory consolidation; Mindwandering; Resting state; Sleep; Slow oscillation; Verbal memory.
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