The role of metaplasticity mechanisms in regulating memory destabilization and reconsolidation

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2012 Aug;36(7):1667-707. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.03.008. Epub 2012 Mar 30.


Memory allows organisms to predict future events based on prior experiences. This requires encoded information to persist once important predictors are extracted, while also being modifiable in response to changes within the environment. Memory reconsolidation may allow stored information to be modified in response to related experience. However, there are many boundary conditions beyond which reconsolidation may not occur. One interpretation of these findings is that the event triggering memory retrieval must contain new information about a familiar stimulus in order to induce reconsolidation. Presently, the mechanisms that affect the likelihood of reconsolidation occurring under these conditions are not well understood. Here we speculate on a number of systems that may play a role in protecting memory from being destabilized during retrieval. We conclude that few memories may enter a state in which they cannot be modified. Rather, metaplasticity mechanisms may serve to alter the specific reactivation cues necessary to destabilize a memory. This might imply that destabilization mechanisms can differ depending on learning conditions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*