Procedural memory consolidation in musicians
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Procedural memory consolidation has been shown to enhance a variety of perceptual and motor skills during sleep. Only recently has this effect been investigated in trained musicians performing music. I tested the extent to which a music performance skill benefited from sleep-based consolidation overnight and whether this process may be inhibited when musicians learn two melodies in juxtaposition. 60 experienced musicians, all nonpianists, learned to perform either one or two 13-note piano melodies during evening training sessions. The musicians practiced each melody with their nondominant hand by repeating it from beginning to end during 12 30-second practice blocks alternating with 30-second rest intervals. All participants were retested on the target melody the following morning in three 30-second retest blocks alternating with 30-second rest intervals. Participants who learned only one melody in the evening showed overnight gains in the number of correct key presses per block (CKP/B) in the target melody at retest. Participants who learned the target melody and an additional melody at training showed no overnight gains in CKP/B in the target melody. Participants who learned both melodies and then immediately were retested on the target melody at training showed overnight gains in CKP/B in the morning retest of the target melody--gains similar to those observed among the participants who learned only the target melody at training; this group showed no decrement in the performance of the target melody in the retest at the end of training, which indicates that there were no immediate interference effects apparent in the target melody after having learned the second melody. These results show that experienced learners performing a familiar type of task, and one that includes auditory processing demands, benefit from overnight consolidation of procedural memories. These benefits may be inhibited, however, when musicians learn similar, competing tasks in juxtaposition.