, Volume 74, Issue 8, pp 1681-1691

Stroboscopic visual training improves information encoding in short-term memory

Abstract

The visual system has developed to transform an undifferentiated and continuous flow of information into discrete and manageable representations, and this ability rests primarily on the uninterrupted nature of the input. Here we explore the impact of altering how visual information is accumulated over time by assessing how intermittent vision influences memory retention. Previous work has shown that intermittent, or stroboscopic, visual training (i.e., practicing while only experiencing snapshots of vision) can enhance visual–motor control and visual cognition, yet many questions remain unanswered about the mechanisms that are altered. In the present study, we used a partial-report memory paradigm to assess the possible changes in visual memory following training under stroboscopic conditions. In Experiment 1, the memory task was completed before and immediately after a training phase, wherein participants engaged in physical activities (e.g., playing catch) while wearing either specialized stroboscopic eyewear or transparent control eyewear. In Experiment 2, an additional group of participants underwent the same stroboscopic protocol but were delayed 24 h between training and assessment, so as to measure retention. In comparison to the control group, both stroboscopic groups (immediate and delayed retest) revealed enhanced retention of information in short-term memory, leading to better recall at longer stimulus-to-cue delays (640–2,560 ms). These results demonstrate that training under stroboscopic conditions has the capacity to enhance some aspects of visual memory, that these faculties generalize beyond the specific tasks that were trained, and that trained improvements can be maintained for at least a day.