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I heard and experienced a little that unconscious mental processes involved in storing memories work really well when you are not thinking about your study subject during rest. However, I'm not sure mental effort such as reading a novel is as effective as physical effort for consolidation of studied information. What is the effect of irrelevant mental exercise on memory consolidation?

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to cogsci.SE! We encourage preliminary research, both to help the asker formulate the question well and to help the reader understand the asker's intentions, so anything that you can cite or more information you can give will improve the answers that you get. $\endgroup$ – Krysta Sep 22 '14 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ @ucha, I don't think your question is answerable because it builds on a false premise of sorts. Your use of the term "subconscious mind" suggests that your ideas stem from Freudian theory (or a derivative thereof), which is neither current nor scientific. The false premise is therefore that there exists a unitary subconscious mind that can be rested or made to work particularly well. Furthermore, this question borders on self-help, which is considered off-topic on these forums. Are you perhaps asking if there are ways to efficiently study something in particular? $\endgroup$ – blz Sep 23 '14 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ @blz Why do you say that the subconscious is not current or scientific? I would say that if there is a Freudian concept that IS scientific, it is probably exactly this notion that we are unaware of most mental processes. See for instance ccrg.cs.memphis.edu/assets/papers/TICSarticle2003.pdf. $\endgroup$ – user6682 Sep 25 '14 at 11:47
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    $\begingroup$ @StrangeLoop, sorry if I was unclear! I meant that Freudian psychology is not current or scientific, not non-conscious processing. "The subconscious" in the Freudian sense is about as inscrutable as it gets (no clear predictions). To be clear, we owe much of modern psychology to Freud's work, but Freudian psych is generally accepted to be unfalsifiable. I just wanted to make sure that the OP wasn't basing his question on id, ego and whatnot. $\endgroup$ – blz Sep 25 '14 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ @StrangeLoop, Just to further clarify my above comment, the issue remains that the OP is referring to a unitary subconscious mind, which strongly insinuates a Freudian interpretation (i.e. "The Subconscious"). Your citation doesn't deal with a unitary subconscious with it's own internal goals and behaviours, but with non-conscious processing -- a very important distinction. We can talk about learning in the absence of conscious access, but we can't engage in a scientific discussion about "the subconscious working really well". $\endgroup$ – blz Sep 25 '14 at 13:06
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First off, a citation on the neurochemical effects of exercise beneficial to memory consolidation. Certain activities (post-study) that modulate neurotransmitter systems have generally been shown to affect how well the brain stores memories, such as caffeine consumption. Regarding the topic of your question, i.e. the effect of mental exercise on memory consolidation, it seems that post-study mental exertion has a negative effect on consolidation. This work cites a number of studies which generally show something along the lines of: "wakeful rest provided a more favorable condition for memory consolidation than the non-verbal cognitive task." Generally speaking, memory consolidation seems to work best under the influence of specific neurotransmitter release (induced by physical activity, for instance) or rest. After all, one main theory of why we sleep is that it is for the purpose of storing memories.

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