Promotion and suppression of autobiographical thinking differentially affect episodic memory consolidation

Varma, S., Daselaar, S. M., Kessels, R. P. C., & Takashima, A. (2018). Promotion and suppression of autobiographical thinking differentially affect episodic memory consolidation. PLoS One, 13(8): e0201780. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0201780.
During a post-encoding delay period, the ongoing consolidation of recently acquired memories can suffer interference if the delay period involves encoding of new memories, or sensory stimulation tasks. Interestingly, two recent independent studies suggest that (i) autobiographical thinking also interferes markedly with ongoing consolidation of recently learned wordlist material, while (ii) a 2-Back task might not interfere with ongoing consolidation, possibly due to the suppression of autobiographical thinking. In this study, we directly compare these conditions against a quiet wakeful rest baseline to test whether the promotion (via familiar sound-cues) or suppression (via a 2-Back task) of autobiographical thinking during the post-encoding delay period can affect consolidation of studied wordlists in a negative or a positive way, respectively. Our results successfully replicate previous studies and show a significant interference effect (as compared to the rest condition) when learning is followed by familiar sound-cues that promote autobiographical thinking, whereas no interference effect is observed when learning is followed by the 2-Back task. Results from a post-experimental experience-sampling questionnaire further show significant differences in the degree of autobiographical thinking reported during the three post-encoding periods: highest in the presence of sound-cues and lowest during the 2-Back task. In conclusion, our results suggest that varying levels of autobiographical thought during the post-encoding period may modulate episodic memory consolidation.
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