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Concept: Long-term memory


Sleep plays an important role in the consolidation of memory. This has been most clearly shown in adults for procedural memory (i.e. skills and procedures) and declarative memory (e.g. recall of facts). The effects of sleep and memory are relatively unstudied in adolescents. Declarative memory is important in school performance and consequent social functioning in adolescents. This is the first study to specifically examine the effects of normal sleep on auditory declarative memory in an early adolescent sample. Given that the majority of adolescents do not obtain the recommended amount of sleep, it is critical to study the cognitive effects of normal sleep. Forty male and female normal, healthy adolescents between the ages of ten and fourteen years old were randomly assigned to sleep and no sleep conditions. Subjects were trained on a paired-associate declarative memory task and a control working memory task at 9 am, and tested at night (12 hours later) without sleep. The same number of subjects was trained at 9 pm and tested 9 am following sleep. An increase of 20.6% in declarative memory, as measured by the number correct in a paired-associate test, following sleep was observed compared to the group which was tested at the same time interval without sleep (p<0.03). The performance on the control working memory task that involved encoding and memoranda manipulation was not affected by time of day or relationship to sleep. Declarative memory is significantly improved by sleep in a sample of normal adolescents.

Concepts: Time, Cognitive psychology, Sleep, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Long-term memory, Declarative memory


Short-term memory in the brain cannot in general be explained the way long-term memory can - as a gradual modification of synaptic weights - since it takes place too quickly. Theories based on some form of cellular bistability, however, do not seem able to account for the fact that noisy neurons can collectively store information in a robust manner. We show how a sufficiently clustered network of simple model neurons can be instantly induced into metastable states capable of retaining information for a short time (a few seconds). The mechanism is robust to different network topologies and kinds of neural model. This could constitute a viable means available to the brain for sensory and/or short-term memory with no need of synaptic learning. Relevant phenomena described by neurobiology and psychology, such as local synchronization of synaptic inputs and power-law statistics of forgetting avalanches, emerge naturally from this mechanism, and we suggest possible experiments to test its viability in more biological settings.

Concepts: Nervous system, Psychology, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Hippocampus, Long-term memory, Network topology


Robust sleep/wake rhythms are important for health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people are living in an environment where their circadian system is challenged by inappropriate meal- or work-times. Here we scheduled food access to the sleep time and examined the impact on learning and memory in mice. Under these conditions, we demonstrate that the molecular clock in the master pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is unaltered while the molecular clock in the hippocampus is synchronized by the timing of food availability. This chronic circadian misalignment causes reduced hippocampal long term potentiation and total CREB expression. Importantly this mis-timed feeding resulted in dramatic deficits in hippocampal-dependent learning and memory. Our findings suggest that the timing of meals have far-reaching effects on hippocampal physiology and learned behaviour.

Concepts: Psychology, Amygdala, Food, Sleep, Memory, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Long-term memory


It is currently not known whether caffeine has an enhancing effect on long-term memory in humans. We used post-study caffeine administration to test its effect on memory consolidation using a behavioral discrimination task. Caffeine enhanced performance 24 h after administration according to an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve; this effect was specific to consolidation and not retrieval. We conclude that caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories in humans.

Concepts: Psychology, Amygdala, Memory, Long-term memory


Memory dysfunction is a key symptom of age-related dementia. Although recent studies have suggested positive effects of electrical stimulation for memory enhancement, its potential targets remain largely unknown. In this study, we hypothesized that spatially targeted deep brain stimulation of ventromedial prefrontal cortex enhanced memory functions in a middle-aged rat model. Our results show that acute stimulation enhanced the short-, but not the long-term memory in the novel-object recognition task. Interestingly, after chronic high-frequency stimulation, both the short- and long-term memories were robustly improved in the novel-object recognition test and Morris water-maze spatial task compared to sham. Our results also demonstrated that chronic ventromedial prefrontal cortex high-frequency stimulation upregulated neurogenesis-associated genes along with enhanced hippocampal cell proliferation. Importantly, these memory behaviors were strongly correlated with the hippocampal neurogenesis. Overall, these findings suggest that chronic ventromedial prefrontal cortex high-frequency stimulation may serve as a novel effective therapeutic target for dementia-related disorders.

Concepts: Brain, Memory, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Prefrontal cortex, Ventromedial prefrontal cortex, Long-term memory


Place cell firing patterns reactivated during hippocampal sharp-wave ripples (SWRs) in rest or sleep are thought to induce synaptic plasticity and thereby promote the consolidation of recently encoded information. However, the capacity of reactivated spike trains to induce plasticity has not been directly tested. Here, we show that reactivated place cell firing patterns simultaneously recorded from CA3 and CA1 of rat dorsal hippocampus are able to induce long-term potentiation (LTP) at synapses between CA3 and CA1 cells but only if accompanied by SWR-associated synaptic activity and resulting dendritic depolarization. In addition, we show that the precise timing of coincident CA3 and CA1 place cell spikes in relation to SWR onset is critical for the induction of LTP and predictive of plasticity generated by reactivation. Our findings confirm an important role for SWRs in triggering and tuning plasticity processes that underlie memory consolidation in the hippocampus during rest or sleep.

Concepts: Amygdala, Synaptic plasticity, Memory, Hippocampus, NMDA receptor, Long-term potentiation, Episodic memory, Long-term memory


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive memory decline and subsequent loss of broader cognitive functions. Memory decline in the early stages of AD is mostly limited to episodic memory, for which the hippocampus has a crucial role. However, it has been uncertain whether the observed amnesia in the early stages of AD is due to disrupted encoding and consolidation of episodic information, or an impairment in the retrieval of stored memory information. Here we show that in transgenic mouse models of early AD, direct optogenetic activation of hippocampal memory engram cells results in memory retrieval despite the fact that these mice are amnesic in long-term memory tests when natural recall cues are used, revealing a retrieval, rather than a storage impairment. Before amyloid plaque deposition, the amnesia in these mice is age-dependent, which correlates with a progressive reduction in spine density of hippocampal dentate gyrus engram cells. We show that optogenetic induction of long-term potentiation at perforant path synapses of dentate gyrus engram cells restores both spine density and long-term memory. We also demonstrate that an ablation of dentate gyrus engram cells containing restored spine density prevents the rescue of long-term memory. Thus, selective rescue of spine density in engram cells may lead to an effective strategy for treating memory loss in the early stages of AD.

Concepts: Memory, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Episodic memory, Long-term memory, Amnesia, Semantic memory, Declarative memory


Previous research suggests that anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the primary motor cortex (M1) modulates NMDA receptor dependent processes that mediate synaptic plasticity. Here we test this proposal by applying anodal versus sham tDCS while subjects practiced to flex the thumb as fast as possible (ballistic movements). Repetitive practice of this task has been shown to result in performance improvements that reflect use-dependent plasticity resulting from NMDA receptor mediated, long-term potentiation (LTP)-like processes. Using a double-blind within-subject cross-over design, subjects (n=14) participated either in an anodal or a sham tDCS session which were at least 3 months apart. Sham or anodal tDCS (1 mA) was applied for 20 min during motor practice and retention was tested 30 min, 24 hours and one week later. All subjects improved performance during each of the two sessions (p < 0.001) and learning gains were similar. Our main result is that long term retention performance (i.e. 1 week after practice) was significantly better when practice was performed with anodal tDCS than with sham tDCS (p < 0.001). This effect was large (Cohen's d=1.01) and all but one subject followed the group trend. Our data strongly suggest that anodal tDCS facilitates long-term memory formation reflecting use-dependent plasticity. Our results support the notion that anodal tDCS facilitates synaptic plasticity mediated by an LTP-like mechanism, which is in accordance with previous research.

Concepts: Synaptic plasticity, Memory, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, NMDA receptor, Long-term potentiation, Long-term memory, Transcranial direct current stimulation


The effects of stress on memory are typically assessed individually; however, in reality different stressors are often experienced simultaneously. Here we determined the effect that two environmentally relevant stressors, crowding and low calcium availability, have on memory and neural activity following operant conditioning of aerial respiration in the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. We measured aerial breathing behaviour and activity of a neuron necessary for memory formation, right pedal dorsal 1 (RPeD1), in the central pattern generator (CPG) that drives aerial respiration in untrained animals, and assessed how these traits changed following training. In naïve animals both crowding and combined stressors significantly depressed burst activity in RPeD1 which correlated with a depression in aerial breathing behaviour, whereas low calcium availability had no effect on RPeD1 activity. Following training, changes in burst activity in RPeD1 correlated with behavioural changes, decreasing relative to their naïve state at 3 h and 24 h in control conditions when both intermediate-term memory (ITM: 3 h) and long-term memory (LTM: 24 h) are formed, at 3 h but not 24 h when exposed to individual stressors when only ITM is formed, and did not change in combined stressors (i.e. when no memory is formed). Additionally, we also found that Lymnaea formed short-term memory (STM: 10 min) in the presence of individual stressors or under control conditions, but failed to do so in the presence of combined stressors. Our data demonstrate that by combining stressors that individually block LTM only we can block all memory processes. Therefore the effects of two stressors with similar individual affects on memory phenotype may be additive when experienced in combination.

Concepts: Psychology, Memory, Behaviorism, Short-term memory, Long-term memory, Lymnaea stagnalis, Lymnaeidae, Lymnaea


Memory systems select from environmental stimuli those to encode permanently. Repeated stimuli separated by timed spaces without stimuli can initiate Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) and long-term memory (LTM) encoding. These processes occur in time scales of minutes, and have been demonstrated in many species. This study reports on using a specific timed pattern of three repeated stimuli separated by 10 min spaces drawn from both behavioral and laboratory studies of LTP and LTM encoding. A technique was developed based on this pattern to test whether encoding complex information into LTM in students was possible using the pattern within a very short time scale. In an educational context, stimuli were periods of highly compressed instruction, and spaces were created through 10 min distractor activities. Spaced Learning in this form was used as the only means of instruction for a national curriculum Biology course, and led to very rapid LTM encoding as measured by the high-stakes test for the course. Remarkably, learning at a greatly increased speed and in a pattern that included deliberate distraction produced significantly higher scores than random answers (p < 0.00001) and scores were not significantly different for experimental groups (one hour spaced learning) and control groups (four months teaching). Thus learning per hour of instruction, as measured by the test, was significantly higher for the spaced learning groups (p < 0.00001). In a third condition, spaced learning was used to replace the end of course review for one of two examinations. Results showed significantly higher outcomes for the course using spaced learning (p < 0.0005). The implications of these findings and further areas for research are briefly considered.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Education, Memory, Hippocampus, Educational psychology, Long-term potentiation, Long-term memory