The site of a motor memory shifts with consolidation

J Neurosci. 2005 Aug 31;25(35):7979-85. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2215-05.2005.


The basis for the consolidation of memory is a controversial topic, particularly in the case of motor memory. One view is that motor memory is transferred, partially or completely, to a new location during the consolidation process ("systems consolidation"). We investigated this possibility in a primitive motor system, the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR). In the simple circuitry of the VOR, there are relatively few possible storage sites for memory. We partially blocked excitatory neurotransmission in the cerebellar cortex of cats with the glutamate antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX). If CNQX was injected immediately after 60 min of rotation under conditions that induced a learned decrease in the gain of the VOR, gain was returned to its baseline value. Expression of the new memory could also be disrupted by rotation in darkness, suggesting that consolidation had not taken place; however, after learning had continued for 3 d, expression of the learned change was diminished only slightly by blockade and was unaffected by rotation in darkness. Our interpretation of these results is that learning may take place initially in the cerebellar cortex and that during consolidation, motor memories are converted to a more distributed representation that includes the cerebellar cortex and another site.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Head Movements / drug effects
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / drug effects
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / drug effects
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / drug effects
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology


  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione