The neurobiology of consolidations, or, how stable is the engram?

Annu Rev Psychol. 2004:55:51-86. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.142050.


Consolidation is the progressive postacquisition stabilization of long-term memory. The term is commonly used to refer to two types of processes: synaptic consolidation, which is accomplished within the first minutes to hours after learning and occurs in all memory systems studied so far; and system consolidation, which takes much longer, and in which memories that are initially dependent upon the hippocampus undergo reorganization and may become hippocampal-independent. The textbook account of consolidation is that for any item in memory, consolidation starts and ends just once. Recently, a heated debate has been revitalized on whether this is indeed the case, or, alternatively, whether memories become labile and must undergo some form of renewed consolidation every time they are activated. This debate focuses attention on fundamental issues concerning the nature of the memory trace, its maturation, persistence, retrievability, and modifiability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurobiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*