Published in Nature Human Behavior, the study led by Brown University researchers tested whether memory reconsolidation, observed in animals, occurs in humans and whether it impacts skill learning. In animals, when a new memory is formed, that memory is fragile until time passes and the memory is consolidated. When memories are recalled or reactivated, they become temporarily unstable and vulnerable to change until they become stable again, shortly afterward.
Using behavioral techniques and new brain imaging tools, the study provides evidence that memory reconsolidation takes place in humans and that it underlies an important skill -- visual perceptual learning.
Study - Reactivation - Memory - Fragile - Humans
"We performed this study because it is controversial whether reactivation makes already consolidated memory fragile again and whether this occurs in humans," said Yuka Sasaki, a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological science at Brown. "If such reactivation and reconsolidation are true functions of the brain, they should also occur in human vision."
Sasaki and her colleagues, including Takeo Watanabe, a professor of cognitive and linguistic science at Brown, trained study participants to recognize a blurred-stripe image, called a Gabor stimulus, as distinct from random dots. The next day, subjects were briefly tested to recall the skill they learned. They were then trained to find a new Gabor stimulus whose position was the same as the original one but whose orientation was different, either immediately afterwards or 3.5 hours later. On the third day, subjects were asked to practice finding the original Gabor stimulus.
Subjects - Gabor - Stimulus - Gabor - Stimulus
They found that the subjects who learned the altered Gabor stimulus immediately after looking at the original Gabor stimulus had significant trouble finding the original blurred stripe, suggesting that the reactivated memory was vulnerable to interference from new learning.
But the subjects who had an interval of 3.5 hours between practicing the original test and the altered Gabor stimuli performed much better....
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