The neural systems that govern declarative and procedural memory processing do not always operate independently. Direct evidence of competition between these two memory systems in humans is supported by studies showing that performing a declarative learning task immediately after motor skill learning can disrupt procedural memory and abolish the off-line gains in skill performance obtained during consolidation. The aim of the present study was to extend recent investigations demonstrating that the exposure to a brief bout of cardiovascular exercise can protect procedural memory by enhancing postpractice consolidation. We used an experimental paradigm designed to assess whether exercise can also protect procedural memory consolidation from interference induced with declarative learning. The implicit acquisition of a serial reaction time task (SRTT) was tested after a 6-h waked-filled period. Participants who were exposed to a non-learning vowel counting (VC) task following the practice of the SRTT exhibited successful procedural memory consolidation and significant off-line gains in skill performance. Confirming that declarative memory processes can interfere with procedural memory consolidation, off-line gains in motor skill performance were suppressed when the performance of the VC task was replaced with a word list (WL) task requiring declarative learning. Performing a bout of cardiovascular exercise after the SRTT protected the newly formed procedural memory from the interference produced by the WL task. Protection was evidenced by a return of significant off-line gains in skill performance after the waked-filled period. Exercise optimizes the utilization of neural resources reducing interference between procedural and declarative memory systems.
Keywords: consolidation; declarative learning; exercise; motor sequence skill; procedural skill.
Copyright © 2020 Chen et al.