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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Memory Consolidation Issues

I am one of the columnists for Sharp Brains. I just posted a review article on some key issues for memory consolidation. These deal with such subjects as over-training, forgetting of things you once knew extremely well, and the learning effects of testing. Check it out at

Friday, July 11, 2008

I just released a new book, Blame Game. How To Win It. Although it is based more on general psychological principles, one of the five chapters explains how learning and memory changes the brain, chemically and structurally, and thus provides a way to change behavior permanently. The book's thesis is a five-step program for living the good life. Think of it as "debt relief" for the high costs of excuse-making. Prominent psychologists have endorsed the pre-publication version. Check it out at Amazon or at your local bookstore (official release date is July 24).

Updating Existing Memories Also Requires Consolidation

As a newly forming memory develops (see chapter on memory consolidation in my book), it is susceptible to disruption by mind wandering, other stimuli, distractions, etc. When a new memory is retrieved, a re-consolidation process will be required if updated information needs to be incorporated. Such re-consolidation involves a new round of protein synthesis in brain cells, similar to that which is needed to make the initial learning a lasting memory. Likewise, a re-consolidation process must be protected from disruptive influences if the updated information is to be integrated and consolidated with the original learning.

There is good news and bad news here. The good news is that new information can update and be integrated with old memories. Recall also my earlier post on the possible use of this principle with treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome. The bad news is that old memories become vulnerable to corruption with each new re-consolidation, leading perhaps to false memories. My book has a whole chapter on false memory.

Source: Rodriguez-Ortiz, C. J. et al. 2005. Spatial memory undergoes post-retrieval consolidation only if updating information is acquired. Soc. Neuroscience Abstract 654.20.