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Symposium on disorders of memory
004 Memory consolidation: past, present and future
  1. M Moscovitch

    Author information: Morris Moscovitch, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, holds the Glassman Chair in Neuropsychology and Ageing. Born in Bucharest, Roumania in 1945, he moved to Israel when he was four and to Canada at seven. He received his B.Sc. at McGill in 1966 while working on memory consolidation with Peter Milner. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania with Paul Rozin where he completed both his M.A. and Ph.D. in 1972 and began his work on human neuropsychology. His dissertation was on hemispheric specialisation. He moved to the University of Toronto, Erindale Campus in 1971 and to the St. George Campus of the University in 2000. In 1973–1974, he was a postdoctoral fellow with Brenda Milner at the at the Montreal Neuological Institute; in 1978–1979 and 2000 a visiting professor at the Hebrew University with Shlomo Bentin, in 1985–1986 at The Institute of Advanced Studies in Jerusalem with Israel Nachshon, and in 1996, 1999–2000 at the University of Arizona with Lynn Nadel. His research interests include memory, face-recognition, attention, and hemispheric specialisation in young and old adults and in people with focal lesions and degenerative disorders. Publishing more than 200 papers, he was elected a Fellow of Divisions 3 and 6 of APA, of AAAS, of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Society of Experimental Psychology. In 2006, he was honoured for promoting neuropsyhology in Israel. In 2007, he received the D.O. Hebb Award for lifetime contributions to research by the Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science Society of Canada. He was named the 2008 recipient of the William James Award for lifetime contributions to experimental psychology by the Association for Psychological Science. He serves on the editorial board of Cognitive Neuropsychology, Cognitive Brain Research, and Cortex. From 2001–2004, he was Co-Editor-in Chief with David Milner of Neuropsychologia, and now is the Reviews editor. From 2005 to 2007, he was Director of Graduate Studies of the Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, and is now the Graduate Chair. His clinical duties include consultant on memory and ageing at the Department of Psychology, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, and as a supervisor at the University of Toronto's clinical extension program. In the early 1980s, he was one of the principal members of a task force that developed and drafted the guidelines for the Canadian Psychological Association to give Clinical Neuropsychology speciality designation. From 2001 to 2007, he served on the Committee for Graduate Training for the College of Psychologists of Ontario which helps draft procedures for training and certification.


Abstract: The problem of memory consolidation has a long scientific history, dating to end of the 19th century, yet is still a matter of vigorous research and heated debate. I will review this history briefly and then deal mainly with current developments. One aspect of the problem concerns the interaction of the neocortex with the hippocampus and related structures in the medial temporal lobes in the formation, retention and retrieval of memory with conscious awareness (also termed explicit or declarative memory). The standard consolidation model, which has many adherents, posits that the hippocampus and related structures act as temporary memory systems, needed only until memories, with their help, are consolidated in neocortex and other regions of the brain. I will present evidence that challenges this view. Contrary to the standard model, our evidence, from humans and rodents, shows the retention and retrieval of episodic memories (detailed, context-dependent autobiographical memories) depend on the hippocampus and related structures for as long as they remain episodic, no matter how long ago they were formed. Some episodic memories, however, are transformed over time and lose the detailed contextual representations that make them episodic and hippocampally dependent; they become more gist-like, semantic (memories related to general knowledge about oneself and the world) or schematic. Once transformed, the latter memories can be retained and retrieved without the hippocampus and its related structures. In short, the change in representation from the hippocampus to neocortex over time is dependent on a process of transformation rather than consolidation. A unified account is presented based on this transformation hypothesis and multiple-trace theory from which it is derived, along with implications for understanding other functions, such as imagination, planning and problem solving.

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