Rapid improvement of cognitive maps in the awake state

Michael Craig, Thomas Wolbers, Shannon Strickland, Johannes Achtzehn, Michaela Dewar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


Post-navigation awake quiescence, relative to task engagement, benefits the accuracy of a new “cognitive map”. This effect is hypothesized to reflect awake quiescence, like sleep, being conducive to the consolidation and integration of new spatial memories. Sleep has been shown to improve cognitive map accuracy over time. It remained unknown whether awake quiescence can induce similar time-related improvements in new cognitive maps, or whether it simply counteracts their decay. We examined this question via two experiments. In Experiment 1, using an established cognitive mapping paradigm, we reveal that map accuracy for a virtual town was significantly better in people whose memory was probed after 10 min of post-navigation awake quiescence or ongoing cognitive engagement, relative to those whose memory was probed shortly after initial navigation. In Experiment 2, using a newly developed cognitive mapping task that involved a more complex and real-life virtual town, we again found that map accuracy was superior in those whose memory was probed after 10 min of awake quiescence than those who were tested soon after navigation. These findings indicate that actual improvements in human memories are not restricted to sleep. Thus, contrary to conventional wisdom and theories, the passage of (day)time need not always result in forgetting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-868
Number of pages7
Issue number9
Early online date18 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2019


  • memory consolidation
  • spatial memory
  • spatial navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Rapid improvement of cognitive maps in the awake state'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this