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Neural signatures of memory gain through active exploration in an oculomotor-auditory learning task
  • Stefanie Sturm,
  • Jordi Costa-Faidella,
  • Iria SanMiguel
Stefanie Sturm
Universitat de Barcelona Departament de Psicologia Clinica i Psicobiologia
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Jordi Costa-Faidella
Universitat de Barcelona Departament de Psicologia Clinica i Psicobiologia
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Iria SanMiguel
Universitat de Barcelona

Corresponding Author:iria.sanmiguel@gmail.com

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Active engagement improves learning and memory, and self- vs. externally generated stimuli are processed differently: perceptual intensity and neural responses are attenuated. Whether the attenuation is linked to memory formation remains to be understood. This study investigates whether active oculomotor control over auditory stimuli – controlling for movement and stimulus predictability – benefits associative learning, and studies the underlying neural mechanisms. Using EEG and eyetracking we explored the impact of control during learning on the processing and memory recall of arbitrary oculomotor-auditory associations. Participants (N=23) learned associations through active exploration or passive observation, using a gaze-controlled interface to generate sounds. Our results show faster learning progress in the active condition. ERPs time-locked to the onset of sound stimuli showed that learning progress was linked to an attenuation of the P3a component. The detection of matching movement-sound pairs triggered a target-matching P3b response. There was no general modulation of ERPs through active learning. However, participants could be divided into different learner types: those who benefited strongly from active control during learning and those who did not. The strength of the N1 attenuation effect for self-generated stimuli was correlated with memory gain in active learning. Our results show that control helps learning and memory and modulates sensory responses. Individual differences during sensory processing predict the strength of the memory benefit. Taken together, these results help to disentangle the effects of agency, unspecific motor-based neuromodulation, and stimulus predictability on ERP components and establish a link between self-generation effects and active learning memory gain.
01 Feb 2023Submitted to Psychophysiology
02 Feb 2023Assigned to Editor
02 Feb 2023Submission Checks Completed
02 Feb 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
18 Feb 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
21 Mar 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Minor