Reconsolidation of a well-learned instrumental memory

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Colleges, School and Institutes

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  • School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom.


Once consolidated, memories are dynamic entities that go through phases of instability in order to be updated with new information, via a process of reconsolidation. The phenomenon of reconsolidation has been demonstrated in a wide variety of experimental paradigms. However, the memories underpinning instrumental behaviors are currently not believed to reconsolidate. We show that well-learned lever pressing in rats does undergo reconsolidation, which can be disrupted by systemic administration of the noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist (+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-SH-dibenzo[a,d]cyclohepten-5,10-imine maleate (MK-801) when administered prior to a switch to a variable, but not fixed, ratio schedule. Disruption of reconsolidation resulted in a reduction in long-term lever pressing performance and diminished the sensitivity of behavior to contingency change. Further investigation demonstrated that expression of the reconsolidation impairment was not affected by outcome value, implying a deficit in a stimulus-response (S-R) process. The ability to disrupt the performance of well-learned instrumental behaviors is potentially of great importance in the development of reconsolidation-based clinical treatments for conditions that involve compulsive seeking behaviors.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-77
Number of pages10
JournalLearning & memory
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014