Schemas and memory consolidation, experiments and theory (PhD)

Systems memory consolidation, a candidate mechanism for long term memory, involves a reorganization of brain regions where hippocampus dependent memories are stabilized and become hippocampus independent. It has been thought as a long gradual process, but previous studies [1] using spatial tasks, reported that systems memory consolidation occurs quickly, if an associative framework of knowledge into which newly acquired data can be incorporated, has been previously created, known as an associative mental schema. It is unclear though, if the rapid memory consolidation occurs only when previous memories encoded in the schema, are spatial. Using a rodent’s behavioral task, we will investigate whether the rapid memory consolidation also occurs for non spatial memories.

[1] also showed that the hippocampus is responsible for the encoding and consolidation of the spatial schema, but the encoding of the additional data requires the hippocampus and cortical areas. However, the dialogue between these brain regions is unclear. Using immediate early genes mapping and inactivation studies, we will explore whether the information about the new data to be incorporated in the spatial schema goes to both hippocampus and cortex, or the hippocampus gets the information exclusively and provides it to the cortex. A possible extension is the investigation of this issue for non spatial schemas, if they exist.

Current theoretical frameworks disagree on how the information travels between the hippocampus and the cortex and they do not include the concept of schema. We will attempt to provide a biologically relevant theoretical framework to describe the duologue between the hippocampus and the cortex during encoding, consolidation and retrieval of memories for the schema, and the associative data to be incorporated.

References:

[1]: Dorothy Tse, Rosamund F. Langston, Masaki Kakeyama, Ingrid Bethus, Patrick A. Spooner, Emma R. Wood, Menno P. Witter, and Richard G. M. Morris. Schemas and memory consolidation. Science, 316(5821), April 2007

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