Motivated encoding selectively promotes memory for future inconsequential semantically-related events

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Abstract

Neurobiological models of long-term memory explain how memory for inconsequential events fades, unless these happen before or after other relevant (i.e., rewarding or aversive) or novel events. Recently, it has been shown in humans that retrospective and prospective memories are selectively enhanced if semantically related events are paired with aversive stimuli. However, it remains unclear whether motivating stimuli, as opposed to aversive, have the same effect in humans. Here, participants performed a three phase incidental encoding task where one semantic category was rewarded during the second phase. A memory test 24 h after, but not immediately after encoding, revealed that memory for inconsequential items was selectively enhanced only if items from the same category had been previously, but not subsequently, paired with rewards. This result suggests that prospective memory enhancement of reward-related information requires, like previously reported for aversive memories, of a period of memory consolidation. The current findings provide the first empirical evidence in humans that the effects of motivated encoding are selectively and prospectively prolonged over time.

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