Memory encoding occurs rapidly, and requires the hippocampus, but the consolidation of memory in the neocortex has long been held to be a more gradual process. Tse et al
now show in experiments with rats learning the position of new treats placed in a maze:
...that systems consolidation can occur extremely quickly if an associative "schema" into which new information is incorporated has previously been created. In experiments using a hippocampal-dependent paired-associate task for rats, the memory of flavor-place associations became persistent over time as a putative neocortical schema gradually developed. New traces, trained for only one trial, then became assimilated and rapidly hippocampal-independent. Schemas also played a causal role in the creation of lasting associative memory representations during one-trial learning. The concept of neocortical schemas may unite psychological accounts of knowledge structures with neurobiological theories of systems memory consolidation. (PDF here)
And, from Larry Squire's perspective article on this paper (PDF here
Legend. (click on figure to enlarge) When a rat learns associations between flavors and spatial locations, as studied by Tse et al. (1), the associations are initially learned as individual facts (left). With extended training, the animal develops an organized structure or schema for flavors and places (middle). This organized knowledge structure (bold lines) can then support rapid learning of new associations in a single trial and the rapid consolidation of information into the neocortex (right).
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