Recently, it has become clear that retrieval (i.e., reactivation) of consolidated memories may return these memories into a labile state before they are restored into long-term memory (‘reconsolidation’). Using behavioral manipulations, reactivated memories can be disrupted via the mechanism of novel learning. In the present study, we investigated whether changing a strong memory during reconsolidation depends on the strength of novel learning. To test this, participants (N = 144) in six groups acquired a relatively strong memory on Day 1 by viewing and recalling a series of pictures three times. On Day 8, these pictures were reactivated in three groups, and they were not reactivated in the other three groups. Then, participants viewed and recalled new pictures once (weak new learning) or three times (strong new learning), or they did not learn any new pictures. On Day 9, participants performed a recognition test in which their memory for Day 1 pictures was assessed. Two main results are noted. First, the groups that reactivated pictures from Day 1 and received weak or strong new learning did not differ in memory performance. Second, these two groups consistently performed similar to groups that controlled for new learning without reactivation. Because these results contradict what was expected based on the reconsolidation hypothesis, we discuss possible explanations and implications.

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Keywords Episodic memory, Memory reconsolidation, Novel learning, Updating
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Journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
van Schie, K, van Veen, S.C. (Suzanne C.), Hendriks, Y.R. (Yanniek R.), van den Hout, M, & Engelhard, I.M. (2017). Intervention strength does not differentially affect memory reconsolidation of strong memories. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 144, 174–185. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2017.07.011