Thursday, October 18, 2007

Interactions between Declarative and Procedural Memories

Brown and Robertson do a simple experiment showing interaction between two main memory systems usually thought to be independent. Their abstract, slightly edited:
The acquisition of declarative (i.e., facts) and procedural (i.e., skills) memories may be supported by independent systems. This same organization may exist, after memory acquisition, when memories are processed off-line during consolidation. Alternatively, memory consolidation may be supported by interactive systems. This latter interactive organization predicts interference between declarative and procedural memories. Here, we show that procedural consolidation, expressed as an off-line motor skill improvement, can be blocked by declarative learning over wake, but not over a night of sleep. [note: the procedural task was learning a sequence of visually cued button presses at four possible postions.] The extent of the blockade on procedural consolidation was correlated to participants' declarative word recall. Similarly, in another experiment, the reciprocal relationship was found: declarative consolidation was blocked by procedural learning over wake, but not over a night of sleep. [note: The declarative task was learning a list of 16 words each individually presented on a computer screen for two seconds, with the list being presented in the same order five times.] The decrease in declarative recall was correlated to participants' procedural learning. These results challenge the concept of fixed independent memory systems; instead, they suggest a dynamic relationship, modulated by when consolidation takes place, allowing at times for a reciprocal interaction between memory systems.

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