Preventing loss of detailed memory

5 May

A paper published in the journal Learning & Memory

Episodic memories undergo qualitative changes with time, but little is known about how different aspects of memory are affected. Different types of information in a memory, such as perceptual detail, and central themes, may be lost at different rates. In patients with medial temporal lobe damage, memory for perceptual details is severely impaired, while memory for central details is relatively spared. Given the sensitivity of memory to loss of details, the present study sought to investigate factors that mediate the forgetting of different types of information from naturalistic episodic memories in young healthy adults. The study investigated (1) time-dependent loss of “central” and “peripheral” details from episodic memories, (2) the effectiveness of cuing with reminders to reinstate memory details, and (3) the role of retrieval in preventing forgetting. Over the course of 7 d, memory for naturalistic events (film clips) underwent a time-dependent loss of peripheral details, while memory for central details (the core or gist of events) showed significantly less loss. Giving brief reminders of the clips just before retrieval reinstated memory for peripheral details, suggesting that loss of details is not always permanent, and may reflect both a storage and retrieval deficit. Furthermore, retrieving a memory shortly after it was encoded prevented loss of both central and peripheral details, thereby promoting retention over time. We consider the implications of these results for behavioral and neurobiological models of retention and forgetting.

I have underlined the take away message. In other words, short term retrieval practice aids long term memory.

 

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