It is widely accepted that learning first involves generating new memories and then consolidating them into long-term memory. Thus learning is generally viewed as a single continuous process with two sequential stages; acquisition and consolidation. Here, we tested an alternative hypothesis proposing that acquisition and consolidation take place, at least partly, in parallel. Human subjects learned two visuomotor tasks. One task required moving a cursor under visuomotor rotation and the other required arbitrary association of colour to direction of movement. Subjects learned the two tasks in sequence, and were tested for acquisition of the second immediately after learning the first, and for retention of the first on the following day. The results show that learning one task led to proactive interference to acquisition of the second. However, this interference was not accompanied by retroactive interference to consolidation of the first task, indicating that acquisition and consolidation can be uncoupled.
Segregation between acquisition and long-term memory in sensorimotor learning
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