In a sample of adequate sleepers learning a serial key-press task, online and offline gains are not impaired by sleep characteristics or movement inhibition


The ability to inhibit prepared motor responses is a demanding executive function. Yet the relationship between motor response inhibition, memory, and sleep, is poorly understood. Motor skills improve rapidly with practice, and further improvements are seen after a rest-period without additional practice; but adequate sleep is essential in the consolidation processes. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between sleep and learning of a serial key-press task where inhibition processes might occur. Participants (n=46) were randomly assigned to learning groups with or without a stop signal and answered two sleep questionnaires to measure sleep characteristics (e.g., duration, quality). Following a go-signal, participants pressed the 2,4,8,6 keys in sequence on a numeric keypad using the index finger of the dominant hand, with an overall movement time goal of 900ms that was segmented into intervals between key-presses of 22.2%, 44.4%, and 33.4% of total time. For the "stop-signal" group, an auditory stop-signal followed the go-signal at a latency resulting in 50% successful stopping. Terminal-feedback was provided after each trial during the four practice blocks of 12-24 trials. Sleep characteristics during the consolidation period were assessed the next day via questionnaire, and participants performed delayed retention and transfer tests. Results showed no significant effect for groups or sleep characteristics for any of the outcome variables. In the present sample of adequate sleepers (mean=8.6 hours, SD=0.78 [sleep guidelines for adults: 7-9 hours per night]), the findings suggest that learning a motor task is not impaired by response inhibition or sleep characteristics.

Acknowledgments: Supported by NSERC and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and Science