The dynamic nature of the reconsolidation process and its boundary conditions: Evidence based on human tests

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2016 Apr:130:202-12. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2016.03.001. Epub 2016 Mar 4.


The reconsolidation process is the mechanism by which the strength and/or content of consolidated memories are updated. This process is triggered by the presentation of a reminder (training cues). It is not always possible to trigger the reconsolidation process. For example, memory age and strength are boundary conditions for the reconsolidation process. Here, we investigated the dynamic changes in these conditions. We propose that the boundary conditions of the reconsolidation process are not fixed and vary as a consequence of the interaction between memory features and reminder characteristics. To modify memory properties, participants received a threatening social protocol that improves memory acquisition or a control condition (fake, without social interaction) prior to learning pairs of meaningless syllables. To determine whether a strong young or old declarative memory undergoes the reconsolidation process, we used an interference task (a second list of pairs of meaningless syllables) to disrupt memory re-stabilization. To assess whether the older memory could be strengthened, we repeated the triggering of reconsolidation. Strong young or old memories modulated by a threatening experience could be interfered during reconsolidation and updated (strengthened) by reconsolidation. Rather than being fixed, boundary conditions vary according to the memory features (strong memory), which indicates the dynamic nature of the reconsolidation process. Our findings demonstrate that it is possible to modify these limits by recruiting the reconsolidation process and making it functionally operative again. This novel scenario opens the possibility to new therapeutically approaches that take into account the reconsolidation process.

Keywords: Boundary conditions; Declarative memory; Reconsolidation; Social stress; Strengthening; Treatment outcome.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult