Using secondary database analysis, we tested whether the (implicit) familiarity of eliciting noun-cues and the (explicit) vividness of corresponding imagery exerted additive or interactive influences on verbal learning, as measured by the probability of incidental noun recall and image latency times (RTs). Noun-cues with incongruent levels of vividness and familiarity (high/low; low/high, respectively) at encoding were subsequently associated at retrieval with the lowest recall probabilities, while noun-cues related with congruent levels (high/high; low/low) were associated with higher recall probabilities. RTs in the high vividness and high familiarity grouping were significantly faster than all other subsets (low/low, low/high, high/low) which did not significantly differ among each other. The findings contradict: (1) associative theories predicting positive monotonic relationships between memory strength and learning; and (2) non-monotonic plasticity hypothesis (NMPH), aiming at generalizing the non-monotonic relationship between a neuron’s excitation level and its synaptic strength to broad neural networks. We propose a dualistic neuropsychological model of memory consolidation that mimics the global activity in two large resting-state networks (RSNs), the default mode network (DMN) and the task-positive-network (TPN). Based on this model, we suggest that incongruence and congruence between vividness and familiarity reflect, respectively, competition and synergy between DMN and TPN activity. We argue that competition or synergy between these RSNs at the time of stimulus encoding disproportionately influences long term semantic memory consolidation in healthy controls. These findings could assist in developing neurophenomenological markers of core memory deficits currently hypothesized to be shared across multiple psychopathological conditions.
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