Mindwandering propensity modulates episodic memory consolidation

Varma, S., Takashima, A., Fu, L., & Kessels, R. P. C. (2019). Mindwandering propensity modulates episodic memory consolidation. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 31(11), 1601-1607. doi:10.1007/s40520-019-01251-1.
Research into strategies that can combat episodic memory decline in healthy older adults has gained widespread attention over the years. Evidence suggests that a short period of rest immediately after learning can enhance memory consolidation, as compared to engaging in cognitive tasks. However, a recent study in younger adults has shown that post-encoding engagement in a working memory task leads to the same degree of memory consolidation as from post-encoding rest. Here, we tested whether this finding can be extended to older adults. Using a delayed recognition test, we compared the memory consolidation of word–picture pairs learned prior to 9 min of rest or a 2-Back working memory task, and examined its relationship with executive functioning and mindwandering propensity. Our results show that (1) similar to younger adults, memory for the word–picture associations did not differ when encoding was followed by post-encoding rest or 2-Back task and (2) older adults with higher mindwandering propensity retained more word–picture associations encoded prior to rest relative to those encoded prior to the 2-Back task, whereas participants with lower mindwandering propensity had better memory performance for the pairs encoded prior to the 2-Back task. Overall, our results indicate that the degree of episodic memory consolidation during both active and passive post-encoding periods depends on individual mindwandering tendency.
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