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Concept: Procedural memory


Obesity has become an international health crisis. There is accumulating evidence that excess bodyweight is associated with changes to the structure and function of the brain and with a number of cognitive deficits. In particular, research suggests that obesity is associated with hippocampal and frontal lobe dysfunction, which would be predicted to impact memory. However evidence for such memory impairment is currently limited. We hypothesised that higher BMI would be associated with reduced performance on a test of episodic memory that assesses not only content, but also context and feature integration. 50 participants aged 18-35, with BMIs ranging from 18 to 51, were tested on a novel what-where-when style episodic memory test: The “Treasure-Hunt Task”. This test requires recollection of object, location, and temporal order information within the same paradigm, as well as testing the ability to integrate these features into a single event recollection. Higher BMI was associated with significantly lower performance on the What-Where-When memory task and all individual elements: object identification, location memory, and temporal order memory. After controlling for age, sex and years in education, the effect of BMI on the individual what, where and when tasks remained, while the WWW dropped below significance. This finding of episodic memory deficits in obesity is of concern given the emerging evidence for a role for episodic cognition in appetite regulation.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Amnesia


Several experiments have demonstrated an intimate relationship between hippocampal theta rhythm (4-12 Hz) and memory. Lesioning the medial septum or fimbria-fornix, a fiber track connecting the hippocampus and the medial septum, abolishes the theta rhythm and results in a severe impairment in declarative memory. To assess whether there is a causal relationship between hippocampal theta and memory formation we investigated whether restoration of hippocampal theta by electrical stimulation during the encoding phase also restores fimbria-fornix lesion induced memory deficit in rats in the fear conditioning paradigm. Male Wistar rats underwent sham or fimbria-fornix lesion operation. Stimulation electrodes were implanted in the ventral hippocampal commissure and recording electrodes in the septal hippocampus. Artificial theta stimulation of 8 Hz was delivered during 3-min free exploration of the test cage in half of the rats before aversive conditioning with three foot shocks during 2 min. Memory was assessed by total freezing time in the same environment 24 h and 28 h after fear conditioning, and in an intervening test session in a different context. As expected, fimbria-fornix lesion impaired fear memory and dramatically attenuated hippocampal theta power. Artificial theta stimulation produced continuous theta oscillations that were almost similar to endogenous theta rhythm in amplitude and frequency. However, contrary to our predictions, artificial theta stimulation impaired conditioned fear response in both sham and fimbria-fornix lesioned animals. These data suggest that restoration of theta oscillation per se is not sufficient to support memory encoding after fimbria-fornix lesion and that universal theta oscillation in the hippocampus with a fixed frequency may actually impair memory.

Concepts: Amygdala, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Semantic memory, Declarative memory, Theta rhythm


Humans have a natural expertise in recognizing faces. However, the nature of the interaction between this critical visual biological skill and memory is yet unclear. Here, we had the unique opportunity to test two individuals who have had exceptional success in the World Memory Championships, including several world records in face-name association memory. We designed a range of face processing tasks to determine whether superior/expert face memory skills are associated with distinctive perceptual strategies for processing faces. Superior memorizers excelled at tasks involving associative face-name learning. Nevertheless, they were as impaired as controls in tasks probing the efficiency of the face system: face inversion and the other-race effect. Super memorizers did not show increased hippocampal volumes, and exhibited optimal generic eye movement strategies when they performed complex multi-item face-name associations. Our data show that the visual computations of the face system are not malleable and are robust to acquired expertise involving extensive training of associative memory.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Skill, Learning, Face, Faces, Procedural memory, Skills


The hippocampus plays a critical role in spatial and episodic memory. Mechanistic models predict that hippocampal subfields have computational specializations that differentially support memory. However, there is little empirical evidence suggesting differences between the subfields, particularly in humans. To clarify how hippocampal subfields support human spatial and episodic memory, we developed a virtual reality paradigm where participants passively navigated through houses (spatial contexts) across a series of videos (episodic contexts). We then used multivariate analyses of high-resolution fMRI data to identify neural representations of contextual information during recollection. Multi-voxel pattern similarity analyses revealed that CA1 represented objects that shared an episodic context as more similar than those from different episodic contexts. CA23DG showed the opposite pattern, differentiating between objects encountered in the same episodic context. The complementary characteristics of these subfields explain how we can parse our experiences into cohesive episodes while retaining the specific details that support vivid recollection.

Concepts: Scientific method, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Amnesia, Semantic memory, Declarative memory


Recent evidence shows that engaging in learning new skills improves episodic memory in older adults. In this study, older adults who were computer novices were trained to use a tablet computer and associated software applications. We hypothesize that sustained engagement in this mentally challenging training would yield a dual benefit of improved cognition and enhancement of everyday function by introducing useful skills.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Skill, Computer program, Procedural memory, Computer software


The hippocampus is critical for episodic memory, and synaptic changes induced by long-term potentiation (LTP) are thought to underlie memory formation. In rodents, hippocampal LTP may be induced through electrical stimulation of the perforant path. To test whether similar techniques could improve episodic memory in humans, we implemented a microstimulation technique that allowed delivery of low-current electrical stimulation via 100 μm-diameter microelectrodes. As thirteen neurosurgical patients performed a person recognition task, microstimulation was applied in a theta-burst pattern, shown to optimally induce LTP. Microstimulation in the right entorhinal area during learning significantly improved subsequent memory specificity for novel portraits; participants were able both to recognize previously-viewed photos and reject similar lures. These results suggest that microstimulation with physiologic level currents-a radical departure from commonly used deep brain stimulation protocols-is sufficient to modulate human behavior and provides an avenue for refined interrogation of the circuits involved in human memory.

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


During the past decade, a large body of research has shown that memory traces can become labile upon retrieval and must be restabilized. Critically, interrupting this reconsolidation process can abolish a previously stable memory. Although a large number of studies have demonstrated this reconsolidation associated amnesia in nonhuman animals, the evidence for its occurrence in humans is far less compelling, especially with regard to declarative memory. In fact, reactivating a declarative memory often makes it more robust and less susceptible to subsequent disruptions. Here we show that existing declarative memories can be selectively impaired by using a noninvasive retrieval-relearning technique. In six experiments, we show that this reconsolidation-associated amnesia can be achieved 48 h after formation of the original memory, but only if relearning occurred soon after retrieval. Furthermore, the amnesic effect persists for at least 24 h, cannot be attributed solely to source confusion and is attainable only when relearning targets specific existing memories for impairment. These results demonstrate that human declarative memory can be selectively rewritten during reconsolidation.

Concepts: Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Amnesia, Declarative memory


In the research reported here, we tested the hypothesis that sustained engagement in learning new skills that activated working memory, episodic memory, and reasoning over a period of 3 months would enhance cognitive function in older adults. In three conditions with high cognitive demands, participants learned to quilt, learned digital photography, or engaged in both activities for an average of 16.51 hr a week for 3 months. Results at posttest indicated that episodic memory was enhanced in these productive-engagement conditions relative to receptive-engagement conditions, in which participants either engaged in nonintellectual activities with a social group or performed low-demand cognitive tasks with no social contact. The findings suggest that sustained engagement in cognitively demanding, novel activities enhances memory function in older adulthood, but, somewhat surprisingly, we found limited cognitive benefits of sustained engagement in social activities.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Working memory


There is limited knowledge regarding how the brain controls the timing of meals. Similarly, there is a large gap in our understanding of how top-down cognitive processes, such as memory, influence energy intake. We hypothesize that dorsal hippocampal (dHC) neurons, which are critical for episodic memory, form a memory of a meal and inhibit meal onset during the postprandial period. In support, we showed previously that reversible inactivation of these neurons during the period following a sucrose meal accelerates the onset of the next meal. If dHC neurons form a memory of a meal, then consumption should induce synaptic plasticity in dHC neurons. To test this, we determined (1) whether a sucrose meal increases the expression of the synaptic plasticity marker activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc) in dHC CA1 neurons, (2) whether previous experience with sucrose influences sucrose-induced Arc expression, and (3) whether the orosensory stimulation produced by the non-caloric sweetener saccharin is sufficient to induce Arc expression. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to consume a sweetened solution at a scheduled time daily. On the experimental day, they were given a solution for 7 min, euthanized, and then fluorescence in situ hybridization procedures were used to measure meal-induced Arc mRNA. Compared to caged control rats, Arc expression was significantly higher in rats that consumed sucrose or saccharin. Interestingly, rats given additional experience with sucrose had less Arc expression than rats with less sucrose experience, even though both groups consumed similar amounts on the experimental day. Thus, the present study is the first to suggest that orosensory stimulation produced by consuming a sweetened solution and possibly the hedonic value of that sweet stimulation induces synaptic plasticity in dHC CA1 neurons in an experience-dependent manner. Collectively, these findings are consistent with our hypothesis that dHC neurons form a memory of a meal. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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


Episodic memory endows us with the ability to reflect on our past and plan for our future. Most theorists argue that episodic memory emerges during the preschool period and that its emergence might herald the end of childhood amnesia. Here, we show that both 3- and 4-year-old children form episodic memories, but that 3-year-old children fail to retain those memories following a delay (Experiments 1 and 2). In contrast, 4-year-old children retained episodic memories over delays of 24 hr (Experiment 1) and 1 week (Experiment 3). This marked change in the retention of episodic memories between 3 and 4 years of age suggests that it is our ability to retain, rather than to form, an episodic memory that limits our ability to recall episodes from early childhood.

Concepts: Memory, Hippocampus, Childhood, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Amnesia, Semantic memory, Declarative memory