"Selective remembering and forgetting." Maria Wimber (University of Birmingham)
Monday, 08 December 2014, 12pm to 1pm
Human long-term memory is capable of storing a virtually unlimited amount of information, and it is still a mystery how our neural system enables us to recall specific past events without constantly being swamped with memories of similar, currently irrelevant events. In this talk I will discuss the cognitive and neural mechanisms that support selective remembering. Specifically, I will present evidence from EEG and pattern fMRI studies demonstrating that reminders can rapidly reactivate neural patterns that represent recently acquired memory traces. If multiple competing memory traces are activated by a reminder, regions in the inferior prefrontal cortex are engaged to reduce this mnemonic competition. As a result, the neural representations of the to-be-retrieved target memories are gradually enhanced while the representations of competing memories are gradually suppressed, ultimately leading to their forgetting. These findings suggest that episodic memory is a highly flexible and adaptive system in which the underlying neural representations are constantly shaped by active use.