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Word learning and semantic integration: memory reactivation as a key mechanism for building the mental lexicon
Congreso; XXXV Anual Virtual Meeting of the Argentinean Society of Neuroscience; 2020
Learning the meaning of new words is an important aspect of human language. But after learning, we must be able to recall these meanings and integrate them with other lexical items accordingly. In the present study we hypothesize that reactivating a novel word´s meaning could be a key mechanism for a successful lexical integration. We performed a series of online studies analyzing the contribution of memory reactivation to: lexical integration (Study 1) and updating of a word?s meaning (Study 2). Native speakers of Spanish (18-35 years) learned low-frequency words within their language (e.g. 'Citole') and their corresponding definitions ('Ancient musical instrument'). The following day, Reactivation groups were exposed to a reminder consisting of the list of words they learnt the previous day, but without their definitions (thus generating a prediction error). Non Reactivated groups, on the other hand, did not receive a reminder. In Study 1 (N=112), memory retention was evaluated 48 h after training using a cued-recall test or a semantic judgment task. In Study 2 (N=73), participants learned a new information for each of the words' definitions (e.g. 'Citole' next to 'with four chords, similar to a violin'). Retention for the updated words' memory was evaluated 48 h after training using a cued-recall test. Results of Study 1 show a significant enhancement of words' declarative memory and semantic recognition speed in the Reactivation group. Regarding memory updating, Study 2 reveals a significant enhancement of the new information's memory that increases according to the reactivation strength of each word. Taking into account both results, we demonstrated the importance of memory reactivation for constructing and updating our mental dictionary.