Learning and Memory

Abstract

An organism's chances for survival are greatly impacted by its ability to learn from previous experience and form memories to modify future behaviour. The search for the engram, the physical trace of a memory in the brain, has resulted in a wealth of data beginning to uncover how memories are stored at the molecular‐cellular level. Despite terminology that suggests a unitary nature, modern definitions of memory support the idea of multiple memory systems, unique in both structure and function. Experiments utilising a multitude of techniques support a structural distinction between different types of memory in humans and animals. The method of memory formation appears to be conserved across memory systems, each following a pattern of encoding, storage and retrieval. Though individual memory capabilities do vary slightly across the population, extreme cases have been observed in either direction, such as hyperthymesia (superior autobiographical memory) and amnesia associated with neurological damage (e.g. Alzheimer's disease).

Key Concepts:

  • Modern neuroscience accepts multiple brain–memory systems.

  • Memory can be defined in terms of temporal longevity, quality of information, or brain circuits required in its formation and storage.

  • The medial temporal lobe is a critical system in the formation and storage of declarative memories about facts and events.

  • Amnesiacs with bilaterally damaged medial temporal lobe system have intact procedural memories.

  • Understanding the mechanisms of learning and memory is vital to developing treatments for cognitive declines that occur with aging and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's dementia.

Keywords: learning; memory; declarative memory; nondeclarative memory; conditioning; multiple memory systems

Figure 1.

Temporal divisions of memory. Information enters short‐term memory through a process of learning. Through consolidation, which often requires some rehearsal of the information, information can enter long‐term memory. A memory can be be retrieved or recalled, from either short‐ or long‐term memory.

Figure 2.

Contemporary memory taxonomy based on information content and circuitry.

close

References

Alvarez P, Zola‐Morgan S and Squire LR (1995) Damage limited to the hippocampal region produces long‐lasting memory impairment in monkeys. Journal of Neuroscience 15(5): 3796–3807.

Bliss TV and Lomo T (1973) Long‐lasting potentiation of synaptic transmission in the dentate area of the anaesthetized rabbit following stimulation of the perforant path. Journal of Physiology 232(2): 331–356.

Corkin S (1968) Acquisition of motor skill after bilateral medial temporal‐lobe excision. Neuropsychologia 6(3): 255–265.

Eichenbaum H, Fagan AA, Mathews PP and Cohen NJ (1988) Hippocampal system dysfunction and odor discrimination learning in rats: Impairment of facilitation depending on representational demands. Behavioral Neuroscience 102(3): 331–339.

Feinstein JS, Adolphs R, Damasio A and Tranel D (2011) The human amygdala and the induction and experience of fear. Current Biology 21(1): 34–38.

Goldstein EB (2011) Cognitive Psychology, 3rd edn. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Groves PM and Thompson RF (1970) Habituation: a dual‐process theory. Psychological Review 77(5): 419–450.

Kandel ER, Schwartz JH and Jessell TM (2000) Principles of Neural Science, 4th edn. New York, NY: McGraw‐Hill/Appleton and Lange.

Kim JJ, Clark RE and Thompson RF (1995) Hippocampectomy impairs the memory of recently, but not remotely, acquired trace eyeblink conditioned responses. Behavioral Neuroscience 109: 195–203.

Kim JJ and Fanselow MS (1992) Modality‐specific retrograde amnesia of fear. Science 256(5057): 675–677.

Kluver H and Bucy PC (1939) Preliminary analysis of functions of the temporal lobes in monkeys. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 42: 979–1000.

McGaugh JL (2000) Memory: a century of consolidation. Science 287(5451): 248–251.

McKenzie S and Eichenbaum H (2011) Consolidation and reconsolidation: two lives of memories? Neuron 71(2): 224–233.

Miller GA (1956) The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review 63(2): 81–97.

Milner B, Corkin S and Teuber HL (1968) Further analysis of the hippocampal amnesic syndrome: 14‐year follow‐up study of HM. Neuropsychologia 6(3): 215–234.

Mishkin M (1978) Memory in monkeys severely impaired by combined but not separate removal of the amygdala and hippocampus. Nature 273: 297–298.

Morris RG, Anderson EE, Lynch GS and Baudry MM (1986) Selective impairment of learning and blockade of long‐term potentiation by an N‐methyl‐D‐aspartate receptor antagonist, AP5. Nature 319(6056): 774–776.

Mowrer OH and Jones HH (1945) Habit strength as a function of the pattern of reinforcement. Journal of Experimental Psychology 35(4): 293–311.

Parker ES, Cahill L and McGaugh JL (2006) A case of unusual autobiographical remembering. Neurocase 12(1): 35–49.

Phillips RG and LeDoux JE (1992) Differential contribution of amygdala and hippocampus to cued and contextual fear conditioning. Behavioral Neuroscience 106(2): 274–285.

Rescorla RA and Wagner AR (1972) A theory of Pavlovian conditioning: variations in the effectiveness of reinforcement and nonreinforcement. In: Black AH and Prokasy WF (eds) Classical Conditioning II, pp. 64–99. New York: Appleton‐Century‐Crofts.

Scoville WB and Milner B (1957) Loss of recent memory after bilateral hippocampal lesions. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 20(1): 11–21.

Sherrington CS (1906) The Integrative Action of the Nervous System. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Solomon P, Vander Schaaf ER, Thompson RF and Weisz DJ (1986) Hippocampus and trace conditioning of the rabbit's classically conditioned nictitating membrane response. Behavioral Neuroscience 100(5): 729–744.

Squire LR (1992) Memory and the hippocampus: a synthesis from findings with rats, monkeys, and humans. Psychological Review 99(2): 195–231.

Squire LR and Kandel ER (1999) Memory: From Mind to Molecules. New York: W.H. Freeman & Co.

Squire LR and Zola‐Morgan S (1991) The medial temporal lobe memory system. Science 253(5026): 1380–1386.

Squire LR, Zola‐Morgan S and Chen KS (1988) Human amnesia and animal models of amnesia: performance of amnesic patients on tests designed for the monkey. Behavioral Neuroscience 102(2): 210–221.

Thompson RF (1986) The neurobiology of learning and memory. Science 233(4767): 941–947.

Thompson RF and Kim JJ (1996) Memory systems in the brain and localization of a memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 93: 13438–13444.

Thompson RF and Spencer WA (1966) Habituation: a model phenomenon for the study of neuronal substrates of behavior. Psychological Review 73: 16–43.

Wang S and Morris RG (2010) Hippocampal‐neocortical interactions in memory formation, consolidation, and reconsolidation. Annual Review of Psychology 61: 49–79.

Yeo C H and Hesslow G (1998) Cerebellum and conditioned reflexes. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2(9): 322–330.

Zola‐Morgan S, Squire LR and Amaral DG (1986) Human amnesia and the medial temporal region: enduring memory impairment following a bilateral lesion limited to field CA1 of the hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience 6: 2950–2967.

Further Reading

Kim JJ, Thompson RF and Steinmetz JE (2012) Biological models of associative learning. In: Nelson RJ and Mizumori S (eds) Handbook of Psychology: Biological Psychology, vol. 3. New York, NY: Wiley.

Milner B, Squire LR and Kandel ER (1998) Cognitive neuroscience and the study of memory. Neuron 20(3): 445–468.

Squire LR (2009) The legacy of patient H. M. for neuroscience. Neuron 61: 6–9.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Reilly, Melissa A, and Kim, Jeansok J(Jan 2013) Learning and Memory. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000172.pub2]