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Abstract or Description
Past research has demonstrated unconscious cognitive processing of information relevant to complex decision making during an unrelated distractor task. Our recent work has identified a novel neural mechanism supporting this processing that involves reactivation of neural regions involved in encoding the decision information. Extending these findings to a new domain, the current research aims to investigate the role of distractor-period unconscious cognitive processing in associative learning. We adapted two learning tasks that have been shown to differentially recruit hippocampal-cortical and hippocampus-independent neural networks for use in a behavioral laboratory experiment. The initial encoding periods of the learning tasks were followed by an unrelated vocabulary-based distractor task that occupied conscious working memory resources, forcing any processing relevant to the learning task to proceed outside of conscious awareness. We demonstrate that performance of the distractor task leads to performance benefits on the hippocampus-independent associative learning task, suggesting a more general role for unconscious cognitive processing than one restricted to decision making.
Available for download on Monday, January 01, 2018