Divergence of explicit and implicit processing speed during associative memory retrieval

Timothy M. Ellmore, Kari Stouffer, Lynn Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Consolidation theory assumes that as time passes, some memories are strengthened and become resistant to change while other memories are weakened and forgotten. Recent demonstrations that implicit, or procedural, memories are retrieved more efficiently after learning and retention are consistent with the idea that these particular memory traces have strengthened with time, and therefore may be accessed faster. However, it is not clear whether the process of explicit memory retrieval also becomes more efficient with time. In two experiments, we explored 1) how much time is required for retrieval of separate explicit and implicit components of hippocampal-dependent visuomotor associative memories after variable retention intervals, and 2) how the explicit and implicit processing times change when the associations are rehearsed after initial retrieval. We found that after learning and retention, explicit and implicit processing times diverged: 1) the time taken to retrieve successfully the explicit component increased relative to a pre-retention baseline but, after spaced rehearsal, decreased, although not to a level significantly below that obtained at the end of learning, and 2) the implicit, or procedural, component processing times continued to gradually decrease after retention, and with continued rehearsal, reached a level significantly below the pre-retention baseline. We conclude that the observed divergence in post-retention reaction times suggests that explicit and implicit memory systems may reorganize differently after learning, and that as a consequence, different amounts of processing time may be required for retrieval of these different memory components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-166
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Sep 10 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Conditional associative learning
  • Consolidation
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory retrieval
  • Reaction times

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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