Long-term procedural memory (LTPM) refers to the process of
learning motor skills that can be used throughout our life (Lum and
Conti-Ramsden, 2013). LTPM has been found to be affected by a number of
factors, two of which being interference from learning a second motor skill and
retroactive interference. Retroactive interference refers to novel information
overwriting existing memory traces (Rasch and Born, 2013). Therefore, as a
person cannot be exposed to new information when asleep, LTPMs can be
consolidated at the highest level (more robust) after a night of sleep. As a
result, the same level of consolidation cannot take place if someone is sleep
deprived due to the presence of retroactive interference (Alhola and
Polo-Kantola, 2007). Generally, research has found consistency with the respect
of sleep leading to better LTPM, however, there is a debate to the extent to
which LTPM is influenced by learning a second skill.

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The role of sleep in the robustness of LTPM was seen in Holz,
Piosczyk, Landmann, Feige, Spiegelhalder, Riemann, Nissen, and Voderholzer’s research
(2012). They found that there was a significantly higher recall of finger
tapping (LTPM) in participants who went to sleep shortly after initial
training, compared to those who were trained earlier on in the day (exposed to
retroactive interference). Moreover, a wide scope of research
(Prehn-Kristensen, Molzow, Munz, Wilhelm, Muller, Freytag, Wiesner, and Baving
(2011), Borragan, Urbain, Schmitz, Mary, Peigneux (2015), Allen (2012), and Yan
(2017)) has replicated previous findings which support the role of sleep
leading to more robust LTPM. These pieces of research were conducted on child
and adult populations, with different motor skills being studied, ranging from
the rehearsal of a finger tapping sequence to a 13 note melody on a piano. Consequently,
a consistency within research can be seen surrounding the role of sleep and


The issue within research lies with the role of learning a second
skill. Holz et al (2012) reported that the LTPM of an initial motor skill can
be compromised as a result of learning a second motor kill, however, this
finding was not replicated within their own research (if training of the second
motor skill took place 4 hours after initial learning). Additionally, both Yan
(2017) and Borragan et al (2015) found that learning a new sequence prior to
testing of the initial skill did not lead to a difference in recall between
groups. Alternatively, Urbain, Hououx, Ve Albouy, and Peigeneux (2013) found
that when a second skill was presented, the interference effects was
significantly higher than that of staying awake. These findings are also
supported by Allen (2012) who found that when a second melody on the piano was
learned, performance of the first melody was impacted. Due to the discrepancies
present in research, this study will be important not only due to it providing
an extension of previous research, but it will also help to clarify some
inconsistencies that are present within the current literature.  


Aims and hypotheses

We hope to provide greater depth surrounding the role
of sleep in LTPM and also provide clarification involving the role of learning
a second skill in the ability to accurately recall the initial skill learnt.
Subsequently, we hypothesise that our research will show that the robustness of
LTPM will be significantly greater for those who receive a night of sleep,
compared to those who are sleep deprived. This is hypothesised on the basis of
previous research (Rasch and Born, 2013) which has shown
that receiving a night of sleep means that a person will not be affected by
retroactive interference (existing memory trace of the initial skill will not
be overwritten). Additionally, we hypothesise that learning a second skill
prior to testing of the initial skill will result in a significant decrease in
LTPM (finger tapping score) compared to the baseline measurement (role of
learning a second skill). This is because the learning of the second skill will
take place 3 hours prior to the testing of the initial skill. Thus, as Holz et
al (2012) found that an effect is seen if secondary skill learning takes place
4 hours before testing of the initial skill, a 3 hour period should be a
sufficient time period to see a significant effect.



We will aim to get an equal sample of male and female
participants due to prior research  (Holz
et al (2012)) having been limited to the female population. Thus, we will use a
stratified sampling method to find a representative sample of male and female
populations. Upon gaining an equal sample of male and female participants, half
of each gender will be randomly allocated to either the sleep or sleep deprived
group. The study will commence at 9 pm, whereby participants will be exposed to
100 trials of a finger tapping task that they will attempt to learn. The task
will involve using a laptop, in which, the letters on the keyboard will be used
to represent numbers; V(1), B(2), N(3), and M(4) (Yan, 2017). Participants will
then be asked to learn the sequence ‘31423’ by tapping the appropriate letters
with their dominant hand over the 100 trials. In order to ease the learning
process, accuracy feedback will be shown on the laptop screen (Yan, 2017).
Additionally, participants will be given a two-minute rest after every 25
trials so that they remain focused at all times. Upon the completion of the
trials, one half of the group will receive a night of sleep, whilst the other
half of the group will be sleep deprived. Participants in the sleep condition
will wake at 7 am and both groups will then be tested in order to gain a
baseline measurement of finger tapping performance. After a baseline
measurement has been recorded, participants will be told that they are free to
leave. Six days later participants will return to the location for midday.
Shortly after arrival participants will be given a second finger tapping task,
with the sequence being ‘34123’. After the 100 trials have been completed of
this new task, participants will be asked to wait for a period of 3 hours. When
the time has elapsed, participants will then be tested on the initial finger
tapping task. During this testing, participants will not be given accuracy
feedback on the laptop screen, but will still be given a two-minute break to
keep the participants focused. The final trial will mark the end of
participation. In terms of analysis, the independent variables will consist of
the amount of sleep and the second finger tapping task, whilst the dependent
variables will be compromised of the accuracy and speed of finger tapping.
Consequently, in order to analyse the data we will need to run a 2 x 2 mixed
ANOVA on SPSS due to there being a baseline and experimental measurement of
finger tapping, additionally, there are two groups (sleep/sleep deprived).
Whilst it may be argued that there are ethical concerns surrounding the use of
sleep deprivation, every participant will have the choice to consent to take
part in the research, moreover, we will aim to conduct the sleep deprivation on
a Thursday night so that their remaining working week will be minimally
affected, and participants will then have the weekend to recover.


Expected results

We previously hypothesised that the accuracy and speed
of LTPM (finger tapping) will be significantly greater for those who receive a
night of sleep (compared to those who are sleep deprived) and that learning a
second skill prior to testing of the initial skill will result in a significant
decrease in accuracy and speed of finger tapping (compared to the baseline
measurement). Therefore, if our results support our hypotheses, we will expect
to see a similar outcome to Urbain et al (2013) who found that there was a significantly
reduced recall of the initial skill due to exposure of a second motor skill.
Additionally, if our results support our hypothesis regarding the role of sleep
and LTPM, it will add reliability to the plethora of research that exists
showing the positive effect that sleep has on the robustness of LTPM. Overall
support could prove to have an important impact on society, especially for sport
and music. This is because Allen (2012) found that when a second melody is learned on the piano, the
performance of the first melody is impacted. As a result, if someone is
attempting to learn a new piece of music, it may be best to focus on one at a time.
We believe that our findings would show that this could be generalised to other
sporting activities such as learning a certain skill in football which would,
for example, allow an attacker player to become better in their role.