Decay happens

The role of active forgetting in memory

Oliver Hardt, Karim Nader, Lynn Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

137 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although the biological bases of forgetting remain obscure, the consensus among cognitive psychologists emphasizes interference processes, rejecting decay in accounting for memory loss. In contrast to this view, recent advances in understanding the neurobiology of long-term memory maintenance lead us to propose that a brain-wide well-regulated decay process, occurring mostly during sleep, systematically removes selected memories. Down-regulation of this decay process can increase the life expectancy of a memory and may eventually prevent its loss. Memory interference usually occurs during certain active processing phases, such as encoding and retrieval, and will be stronger in brain areas with minimal sensory integration and less pattern separation. In areas with efficient pattern separation, such as the hippocampus, interference-driven forgetting will be minimal, and, consequently, decay will cause most forgetting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2013

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Neurobiology
Long-Term Memory
Memory Disorders
Brain
Life Expectancy
Hippocampus
Consensus
Sleep
Down-Regulation
Maintenance
Psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

Cite this

Decay happens : The role of active forgetting in memory. / Hardt, Oliver; Nader, Karim; Nadel, Lynn.

In: Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 17, No. 3, 03.2013, p. 111-120.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Hardt, Oliver ; Nader, Karim ; Nadel, Lynn. / Decay happens : The role of active forgetting in memory. In: Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2013 ; Vol. 17, No. 3. pp. 111-120.
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