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Dissociable stages of human memory consolidation and reconsolidation

Nature volume 425, pages 616620 (09 October 2003) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Historically, the term ‘memory consolidation’ refers to a process whereby a memory becomes increasingly resistant to interference from competing or disrupting factors with the continued passage of time1. Recent findings regarding the learning of skilled sensory and motor tasks (‘procedural learning’) have refined this definition, suggesting that consolidation can be more strictly determined by time spent in specific brain states such as wake, sleep or certain stages of sleep2,3,4,5,6,7,8. There is also renewed interest9 in the possibility that recalling or ‘reactivating’ a previously consolidated memory renders it once again fragile and susceptible to interference10,11,12, therefore requiring periods of reconsolidation13,14,15. Using a motor skill finger-tapping task, here we provide evidence for at least three different stages of human motor memory processing after initial acquisition. We describe the unique contributions of wake and sleep in the development of different forms of consolidation, and show that waking reactivation can turn a previously consolidated memory back into a labile state requiring subsequent reconsolidation.

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Acknowledgements

We thank B. Kocsis, E. Pace-Schott and R. Fosse for comments regarding the study. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.

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Affiliations

  1. Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, 74 Fenwood Road, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Matthew P. Walker
    • , Tiffany Brakefield
    • , J. Allan Hobson
    •  & Robert Stickgold

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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matthew P. Walker.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01930

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