Interference between successively learned tasks is widely investigated to study motor memory. However, how simultaneously-learned motor memories interact with each other has been rarely studied despite its prevalence in daily life. Assuming that motor memory shares common neural mechanisms with declarative memory system, we made unintuitive predictions that mental rehearsal, as opposed to further practice, of one motor memory will temporarily impair the recall of another simultaneously-learned memory. Subjects simultaneously learned two sensorimotor tasks, i.e., visuomotor rotation and gain. They retrieved one memory by either practice or mental rehearsal and then had their memory evaluated. We found that mental rehearsal, instead of execution, impaired the recall of un-retrieved memory. This impairment was content-independent, i.e., retrieving either gain or rotation impaired the other memory. Hence, conscious recollection of one motor memory interferes the recall of another memory. This is analogous to retrieval-induced forgetting in declarative memory, suggesting a common neural process across memory systems. Our findings indicate that motor imagery is sufficient to induce interference between motor memories. Mental rehearsal, currently widely regarded as beneficial for motor performance, negatively affects memory recall when it is exercised for a subset of memorized items.
- motor memory
- mental rehearsal
- motor imagery
- motor interference
- Copyright © 2014, Journal of Neurophysiology