Registered Report: Transcriptional Analysis of Savings Memory Suggests Forgetting is Due to Retrieval Failure

eNeuro. 2020 Nov 12;7(6):ENEURO.0313-19.2020. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0313-19.2020. Print 2020 Nov/Dec.


There is fundamental debate about the nature of forgetting: some have argued that it represents the decay of the memory trace, others that the memory trace persists but becomes inaccessible because of retrieval failure. These different accounts of forgetting lead to different predictions about savings memory, the rapid re-learning of seemingly forgotten information. If forgetting is because of decay, then savings requires re-encoding and should thus involve the same mechanisms as initial learning. If forgetting is because of retrieval failure, then savings should be mechanistically distinct from encoding. In this registered report, we conducted a preregistered and rigorous test between these accounts of forgetting. Specifically, we used microarray to characterize the transcriptional correlates of a new memory (1 d after training), a forgotten memory (8 d after training), and a savings memory (8 d after training but with a reminder on day 7 to evoke a long-term savings memory) for sensitization in Aplysia californica (n = 8 samples/group). We found that the reactivation of sensitization during savings does not involve a substantial transcriptional response. Thus, savings is transcriptionally distinct relative to a newer (1-d-old) memory, with no coregulated transcripts, negligible similarity in regulation-ranked ordering of transcripts, and a negligible correlation in training-induced changes in gene expression (r = 0.04 95% confidence interval (CI) [-0.12, 0.20]). Overall, our results suggest that forgetting of sensitization memory represents retrieval failure.

Keywords: latent memory; long-term memory; sensitization; transcription.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia
  • Learning
  • Memory*
  • Memory, Long-Term*
  • Microarray Analysis