Indirect modulation of human visual memory

Stas Kozak, Noa Herz, Yair Bar-Haim, Nitzan Censor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Conditions in which memories become maladaptive have inspired extensive research geared to modulate memory by targeting it directly and explicitly. Given limitations of direct memory modulation, we asked the following: can the target memories be modulated indirectly? To address this question, we uniquely targeted visual memories, and leveraged a paradigm utilizing instructions to either forget or remember newly encoded memories. We used a multi-domain approach, and applied the instructions to embedded verbal information presented during encoding (words), with the intention to indirectly modulate recognition of the target visual context memory itself (pictures). Accordingly, participants were presented with two lists of words, where each word was preceded and followed by pictures. Participants were instructed to either remember or forget the first list of words. As expected, the instruction to either remember or forget the words differentially influenced word memory strength. Importantly, the instruction regarding the words, indirectly modulated picture memory strength. Better memory for words resulted in reduced picture memory strength and vice versa, with the instruction to remember the words reducing picture memory strength. Together with a negative correlation between word and picture memory strength, the results suggest a competition for shared resources between memory for content and context. These findings may open new avenues to indirectly modulate maladaptive memories.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7274
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation526/17
Israeli Centers for Research Excellence51/11


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