Title

The neurobiological foundation of memory retrieval

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-1-2019

Journal

Nature Neuroscience

Volume

22

Issue

10

First Page

1576

Last Page

1585

URL with Digital Object Identifier

10.1038/s41593-019-0493-1

Abstract

© 2019, Springer Nature America, Inc. Memory retrieval involves the interaction between external sensory or internally generated cues and stored memory traces (or engrams) in a process termed ‘ecphory’. While ecphory has been examined in human cognitive neuroscience research, its neurobiological foundation is less understood. To the extent that ecphory involves ‘reawakening’ of engrams, leveraging recently developed technologies that can identify and manipulate engrams in rodents provides a fertile avenue for examining retrieval at the level of neuronal ensembles. Here we evaluate emerging neuroscientific research of this type, using cognitive theory as a guiding principle to organize and interpret initial findings. Our Review highlights the critical interaction between engrams and retrieval cues (environmental or artificial) for memory accessibility and retrieval success. These findings also highlight the intimate relationship between the mechanisms important in forming engrams and those important in their recovery, as captured in the cognitive notion of ‘encoding specificity’. Finally, we identify several questions that currently remain unanswered.

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