The restless engram: consolidations never end

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2012;35:227-47. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-062111-150500. Epub 2012 Mar 20.


Memory consolidation is the hypothetical process in which an item in memory is transformed into a long-term form. It is commonly addressed at two complementary levels of description and analysis: the cellular/synaptic level (synaptic consolidation) and the brain systems level (systems consolidation). This article focuses on selected recent advances in consolidation research, including the reconsolidation of long-term memory items, the brain mechanisms of transformation of the content and of cue-dependency of memory items over time, as well as the role of rest and sleep in consolidating and shaping memories. Taken together, the picture that emerges is of dynamic engrams that are formed, modified, and remodified over time at the systems level by using synaptic consolidation mechanisms as subroutines. This implies that, contrary to interpretations that have dominated neuroscience for a while, but similar to long-standing cognitive concepts, consolidation of at least some items in long-term memory may never really come to an end.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Time Factors