Memory Reactivation Enables Long-Term Prevention of Interference

Jasmine Herszage, Nitzan Censor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability of the human brain to successively learn or perform two competing tasks constitutes a major challenge in daily function. Indeed, exposing the brain to two different competing memories within a short temporal offset can induce interference, resulting in deteriorated performance in at least one of the learned memories [1–4]. Although previous studies have investigated online interference and its effects on performance [5–13], whether the human brain can enable long-term prevention of future interference is unknown. To address this question, we utilized the memory reactivation-reconsolidation framework [2, 12] stemming from studies at the synaptic level [14–17], according to which reactivation of a memory enables its update. In a set of experiments, using the motor sequence learning task [18] we report that a unique pairing of reactivating the original memory (right hand) in synchrony with novel memory trials (left hand) prevented future interference between the two memories. Strikingly, these effects were long-term and observed a month following reactivation. Further experiments showed that preventing future interference was not due to practice per se, but rather specifically depended on a limited time window induced by reactivation of the original memory. These results suggest a mechanism according to which memory reactivation enables long-term prevention of interference, possibly by creating an updated memory trace integrating original and novel memories during the reconsolidation time window. The opportunity to induce a long-term preventive effect on memories may enable the utilization of strategies optimizing normal human learning, as well as recovery following neurological insults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1529-1534.e2
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 22 May 2017


  • interference
  • learning
  • memory
  • motor
  • procedural
  • reactivation
  • reconsolidation
  • skill


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