Psychobiology of active and inactive memory

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Presents a brief history and review of the short-term and long-term memory distinction and concludes that this distinction is no longer adequate for either human or animal memory data. Simple memories for events are apparently formed quickly and are permanent. In such cases, an initial physiologically unstable period is not required. Thus, most forgetting is the result of a retrieval failure rather than a storage failure. A distinction between active memory (AM) and inactive memory (IM) is made. AM is a subset of IM and contains either newly formed memories or established retrieved memories or both. Implications for psychobiology of the AM and IM distinction are discussed. It is suggested, for example, that while in AM, memories are particularly open to disruption either by amnesic agents or through other forms of interference. The forgetting process for new and established memories is time dependent (but independent of memory age) and is based on interference. It is desirable to maintain the distinction between memory storage and memory retrieval even while recognizing that associative storage aids in retrieval. The search for the biological basis of rapidly forming memories, perhaps based on the restructuring of protein fragments, remains important, but the physiological brain processes underlying memory interference and retrieval require greater emphasis. (5½ p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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