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Markers of automaticity in sleep-associated consolidation of novel words

Tham, Elaine K. H.; Lindsay, Shane; Gaskell, M. Gareth


Elaine K. H. Tham

M. Gareth Gaskell


Two experiments investigated effects of sleep on consolidation and integration of novel form-meaning mappings using size congruity and semantic distance paradigms. Both paradigms have been used in previous studies to measure automatic access to word meanings. When participants compare semantic or physical font size of written word-pairs (e.g. BEE–COW), judgments are typically faster if relative sizes are congruent across both dimensions. Semantic distance effects are also found for wellestablished words, with semantic size judgements faster for pairs that differ substantially on this dimension. English-speaking participants learned novel form-meaning mappings with Mandarin (Experiment 1) or Malay (Experiment 2) words and were tested following overnight sleep or a similar duration awake. Judgements on English words controlled for circadian effects. The sleep group demonstrated selective stronger size congruity and semantic distance effects for novel word-pairs. This benefit occurred in Experiment 1 for semantic size comparisons of novel words, and in Experiment 2 on comparisons where novel pairs had large distances and font differences (for congruity effects) or in congruent trials (for semantic distance effects). Conversely, these effects were equivalent across sleep and wake for English words. Experiment 2 included polysomnography data and revealed that changes in the strength of semantic distance and congruity effects were positively correlated with slow-wave sleep and sleep spindles respectively. These findings support systems consolidation accounts of declarative learning and suggest that sleep plays an active role in integrating new words with existing knowledge, resulting in increased automatic access of the acquired knowledge.


Tham, E. K. H., Lindsay, S., & Gaskell, M. G. (2015). Markers of automaticity in sleep-associated consolidation of novel words. Neuropsychologia, 71(May), 146-157.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 21, 2015
Online Publication Date Mar 26, 2015
Publication Date May 1, 2015
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Mar 26, 2015
Journal Neuropsychologia
Print ISSN 0028-3932
Electronic ISSN 1873-3514
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 71
Issue May
Pages 146-157
Keywords Sleep; Memory consolidation; Integration; Automaticity; Word learning
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article which has been published in: Neuropsychologia, 2015, v.71.


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© 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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