Brief wakeful resting boosts new memories over the long term

Michaela Dewar, Jessica Alber, Christopher Butler, Nelson Cowan, Sergio Della Sala

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    125 Citations (Scopus)


    A brief wakeful rest after new verbal learning enhances memory for several minutes. In the research reported here, we explored the possibility of extending this rest-induced memory enhancement over much longer periods. Participants were presented with two stories; one story was followed by a 10-min period of wakeful resting, and the other was followed by a 10-min period during which participants played a spot-the-difference game. In Experiment 1, wakeful resting led to significant enhancement of memory after a 15- to 30-min period and also after 7 days. In Experiment 2, this striking enhancement of memory 7 days after learning was demonstrated even when no retrievals were imposed in the interim. The degree to which people can remember prose after 7 days is significantly affected by the cognitive activity that they engage in shortly after new learning takes place. We propose that wakeful resting after new learning allows new memory traces to be consolidated better and hence to be retained for much longer.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)955-960
    Number of pages6
    JournalPsychological Science
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


    • long-term memory
    • memory enhancement
    • memory consolidation
    • wakeful resting
    • episodic memory
    • cognitive neuroscience


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