Reminder duration determines threat memory modification in humans

Mappe:  Authors/ D.Schiller

Daniela Schiller.  Jun 2018

Memory reminders can return a memory into an unstable state such that it will decay unless actively restabilized into long-term memory through reconsolidation. Exposure to a memory reminder, however, does not always lead to destabilization. The ‘trace dominance’ principle posits that the extent of exposure to memory reminders governs memory susceptibility to disruption. Here, we provide a first systematic investigation of reminder duration effects on threat memory modification in humans. Reminder duration was parametrically varied across 155 participants in a three-day protocol. We found that short reminders (1 s and 4 s) made the memory prone to interference from post-retrieval extinction, suggesting that the memory had been updated. In contrast, no reminder or long reminders (30 s and 3 min) made the memory resistant to such interference, and robustly return. Reminder duration therefore influences memory stability and may be a critical determinant of therapeutic efficacy.

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