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Journal Article


Müller NC, Genzel L, Konrad BN, Pawlowski M, Neville D, Fernández G, Steiger A, Dresler M. PLoS One 2016; 11(6): e0157770.


Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.


(Copyright © 2016, Public Library of Science)






The ability to consolidate procedural memories declines with increasing age. Prior knowledge enhances learning and memory consolidation of novel but related information in various domains. Here, we present evidence that prior motor experience-in our case piano skills-increases procedural learning and has a protective effect against age-related decline for the consolidation of novel but related manual movements. In our main experiment, we tested 128 participants with a sequential finger-tapping motor task during two sessions 24 hours apart. We observed enhanced online learning speed and offline memory consolidation for piano players. Enhanced memory consolidation was driven by a strong effect in older participants, whereas younger participants did not benefit significantly from prior piano experience. In a follow up independent control experiment, this compensatory effect of piano experience was not visible after a brief offline period of 30 minutes, hence requiring an extended consolidation window potentially involving sleep. Through a further control experiment, we rejected the possibility that the decreased effect in younger participants was caused by training saturation. We discuss our results in the context of the neurobiological schema approach and suggest that prior experience has the potential to rescue memory consolidation from age-related cognitive decline.

Language: en


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