April 20, 2021

Tracking the relation between gist and item memory over the course of long term memory consolidation

Our experiences in the world support memories not only of specific episodes but also of the generalities (the ‘gist’) across related experiences. It remains unclear how these two types of memories evolve and influence one another over time. 173 human participants encoded spatial locations from a distribution and reported both item memory (specific locations) and gist memory (center for the locations) across one to two months. After one month, gist memory preserved relative to item memory, despite a persistent positive correlation between them. Critically, item memories were biased towards the gist over time; however, with a spatial outlier item, the local center excluding the outlier became the source of bias, instead of the reported center overweighting the outlier. Our results suggest that the extraction of gist is sensitive to the regularities of items, and that the gist starts to guide item memories over longer durations as their relative strengths change.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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