Reward-enhanced encoding improves relearning of forgotten associations

Ewa A Miendlarzewska, Sara Ciucci, Carlo V Cannistraci, Daphne Bavelier, Sophie Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on human memory has shown that monetary incentives can enhance hippocampal memory consolidation and thereby protect memory traces from forgetting. However, it is not known whether initial reward may facilitate the recovery of already forgotten memories weeks after learning. Here, we investigated the influence of monetary reward on later relearning. Nineteen healthy human participants learned object-location associations, for half of which we offered money. Six weeks later, most of these associations had been forgotten as measured by a test of declarative memory. Yet, relearning in the absence of any reward was faster for the originally rewarded associations. Thus, associative memories encoded in a state of monetary reward motivation may persist in a latent form despite the failure to retrieve them explicitly. Alternatively, such facilitation could be analogous to the renewal effect observed in animal conditioning, whereby a reward-associated cue can reinstate anticipatory arousal, which would in turn modulate relearning. This finding has important implications for learning and education, suggesting that even when learned information is no longer accessible via explicit retrieval, the enduring effects of a past prospect of reward could facilitate its recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8557
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 4 2018


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