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Poster C71

Implicit sequence learning does not generalize even after multiple sessions and days

Poster Session C - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 5:00 – 7:00 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Peigen Shu1, Paul Reber1; 1Northwestern University

Expertly skilled performance typically involves generalized knowledge across the domain of expertise, yet laboratory studies of learning through practice have frequently shown highly specific and inflexible learning. Here we considered the hypothesis that training over multiple days with interleaved sleep may foster more flexible representations supporting implicit learning. Participants (N=33) practiced a covertly-embedded, 12-item repeating sequence by making precisely-timed keypresses according to moving visual cues. In addition, the timing between cues followed a consistent pattern, creating a practiced sequential rhythm. Participants completed 72 sequence repetitions within a 1-hour session with tests of both sequence knowledge and transfer to the same cue sequence with the inverted timing rhythm. Two additional sessions were completed on subsequent days (23.9±0.57/48.0±0.70 hours later) that included a pre-test, additional training, and a post-test, resulting in a total of 216 repetitions of the practiced sequence over three days, and five tests of sequence knowledge and transfer. As in our previous studies, participants exhibited robust sequence-specific learning that increased with additional practice, but consistently showed little to no transfer to the same sequence with inverted timing rhythm. Extended, multi-day training with periods of interleaved sleep still did not produce knowledge representations sufficient to generalize to a slightly different training context. We speculate that the hyper-specificity of our laboratory-based learning might limit generalization due to the consistency of the cued responses, which presents a different practice experience than the natural course of self-directed practice, which is more likely to incorporate substantial variability in repeated performance.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Skill Learning


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April 13–16  |  2024