Skill learning: putting procedural consolidation in context

Robertson, E. M. (2004) Skill learning: putting procedural consolidation in context. Current Biology, 14(24), R1061-R1063. (doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.11.048) (PMID:15620642)

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Information acquired during skill learning continues to be processed long after practice has ceased. An important aspect of this processing is thought to be the transformation of a memory from a fragile to a stable state: a concept challenged by a recent study. Memories pass through multiple stages in their development, the most recognised of which are encoding, consolidation and retrieval [1]. Each stage is associated with an array of important neural processes; for example, during consolidation, memories can be enhanced and/or stabilised 2., 3. and 4.. The notion that memories are initially encoded in a fragile state and, over time, are transformed into stable memories has been influential; it provides an explanation for key features of the amnesiac syndrome, and has motivated important experimental work [5]. Given the contribution that this idea has made to our understanding of declarative memory – memory for facts and events – it is not surprising that evidence has been sought that other types of memory also undergo stabilisation. This would provide a common principle: all types of memory, regardless of the neural system they engage, would initially be encoded in a fragile state and later transformed into stable memories. Pioneering experiments, eight years ago, supported this idea, showing that, like declarative memory, procedural memory – memory for skills – also requires stabilisation following encoding. These studies showed that a newly acquired skill (task A) can be lost if an individual immediately attempts to acquire skill in another, similar task (task B). If time passes between acquisition of the first skill and training in the second, however, the amount of interference decreases (Figure 1A) [6]. This additional time perhaps gives an opportunity for the neural processes of consolidation to transform a fragile procedural memory into a stable memory. Once the memory for the first skill is stabilised, the limited resources to maintain a fragile memory become available once again, allowing a second skill to be acquired without disrupting the first.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Robertson, Professor Edwin
Authors: Robertson, E. M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Current Biology
Publisher:Cell Press
ISSN (Online):1879-0445
Published Online:28 December 2004

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