10.1101/lm.1022308

The dynamics of memory: Context-dependent updating

Abstract

Understanding the dynamics of memory change is one of the current challenges facing cognitive neuroscience. Recent animal work on memory reconsolidation shows that memories can be altered long after acquisition. When reactivated, memories can be modified and require a restabilization (reconsolidation) process. We recently extended this finding to human episodic memory by showing that memory reactivation mediates the incorporation of new information into existing memory. Here we show that the spatial context plays a unique role for this type of memory updating: Being in the same spatial context during original and new learning is both necessary and sufficient for the incorporation of new information into existing episodic memories. Memories are automatically reactivated when subjects return to an original learning context, where updating by incorporating new contents can occur. However, when in a novel context, updating of existing memories does not occur, and a new episodic memory is created instead. Memory does not provide a perfect record of the past and can be altered long after acquisition. This malleability of memory has important implications, for public and private spheres of life. The dynamic nature of memory is probably not a design flaw; it can allow us to update existing knowledge in light of new informa-tion. Understanding the dynamics of memory change is one o

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