An update on memory reconsolidation updating

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


The reactivation of a stored memory in the brain can make the memory transiently labile. During the time it takes for the memory to restabilize (reconsolidate) the memory can either be reduced by an amnesic agent or enhanced by memory enhancers. The change in memory expression is related to changes in the brain correlates of long-term memory. Many have suggested that such retrieval-induced plasticity is ideally placed to enable memories to be updated with new information. This hypothesis has been tested experimentally, with a translational perspective, by attempts to update maladaptive memories to reduce their problematic impact. We review here progress on reconsolidation updating studies, highlighting their translational exploitation and addressing recent challenges to the reconsolidation field.

Memory reactivation can lead to its destabilization, necessitating the restabilization of the memory trace through a process termed ‘reconsolidation’.

Interfering with reconsolidation by pharmacological means may lead to blockade or strengthening of subsequent expression of the memory.

This bidirectional modulation of synaptic plasticity during reconsolidation hints at its functional role: memory updating by incorporating new information.

Evidence for memory updating is accumulating across memory systems, developmental stages, and clinical populations, pointing to possible non-invasive techniques for permanent modification of maladaptive memories.

However, replication failures and alternative explanations challenge clinical translation. These obstacles can be viewed constructively by highlighting the need to demarcate the source of failure: lack of destabilization or insufficient updating at restabilization.


Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Early online date8 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • counterconditioning, addiction, reconsolidation, memory, retrieval, extinction