Memory Consolidation: Psychobiology of Cognition

By Herbert Weingartner; Elizabeth S. Parker | Go to book overview

5 Consolidation as a Function of Retrieval

Norman E. Spear and Christian W. Mueller State University of New York, Binghamton

This chapter arises from consideration of "consolidation "--what it is, what its characteristics are, when it occurs, and what its consequences are at the behavioral level. We shall not discuss how consolidation occurs--that is, we shall not discuss the neurophysiological events presumed to lead to the neurochemical and perhaps neuroanatomical changes that have long been supposed and more recently have begun to be physically identified in vitro at the synaptic level. We could offer nothing of interest on this topic in any case, and we seek in this chapter a level of generality at the behavioral level that is as yet inconsistent with what is known about the physiological basis of learning and memory. In short, we wish to discuss human as well as animal memory, and just as the cognitive analysis of memory processing in animals may be said to lag that with human subjects, so it is that the relationship between neurophysiological functioning and memory is understood less clearly for human than animal subjects.

It does not take a great deal of courage or imagination to assert that "consolidation" exists as a time-dependent associative process. Certainly, some orderly change in a neurophysiological substrate somewhere must accompany the orderly change in behavior seen when learning occurs and a memory is acquired; and, such a process must be time-dependent in the sense that its completion requires some measurable duration, because everything biological is. We suspect that such a consolidation process typically does not outlast the duration of processing required for sensation and perception ( Johnson, 1983), but even in this sense it can be "time-dependent".

"Consolidation" surely is an appropriate term for an act of bringing together into a single whole the separable attributes ( Underwood, 1969), gnostic units ( Konorski, 1967), nodes, or whatever are the elements that combine to form a

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