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Examining the effects of time of day and sleep on generalization

Publication year 2021
Published in PLoS One
Authors Roy Cox, Marlie C Tandoc, Mollie Bayda, Craig Poskanzer, Eileen Cho, Robert Stickgold, Anna C Schapiro,
The order of authors may deviate from the original publication due to temporary technical issues.

Extracting shared structure across our experiences allows us to generalize our knowledge to novel contexts. How do different brain states influence this ability to generalize? Using a novel category learning paradigm, we assess the effect of both sleep and time of day on generalization that depends on the flexible integration of recent information. Counter to our expectations, we found no evidence that this form of generalization is better after a night of sleep relative to a day awake. Instead, we observed an effect of time of day, with better generalization in the morning than the evening. This effect also manifested as increased false memory for generalized information. In a nap experiment, we found that generalization did not benefit from having slept recently, suggesting a role for time of day apart from sleep. In follow-up experiments, we were unable to replicate the time of day effect for reasons that may relate to changes in category structure and task engagement. Despite this lack of consistency, we found a morning benefit for generalization when analyzing all the data from experiments with matched protocols (n = 136). We suggest that a state of lowered inhibition in the morning may facilitate spreading activation between otherwise separate memories, promoting this form of generalization.

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