Contextual reminders fail to trigger memory reconsolidation in aged rats and aged humans

Bethany J. Jones, Stacey M. Pest, Iliana M. Vargas, Elizabeth L. Glisky, Jean Marc Fellous

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


There is strong evidence that hippocampal memory returns to a labile state upon reactivation, initiating a reconsolidation process that restabilizes it and allows for its updating. Normal aging is associated with deficits in episodic memory processes. However, the effects of aging on memory reconsolidation and its neural substrate remain largely unknown, and an animal model is lacking. In this study we investigated the effects of aging on context-dependent reconsolidation using an episodic set-learning task in humans and an analogous set-learning spatial task in rats. In both tasks, young and older subjects learned a set of objects (humans) or feeder locations (rats; Set 1) in Context A on Day 1. On Day 2, a different set (Set 2) was learned in either Context A (Reminder condition) or Context B (No Reminder condition). On Day 3, subjects were instructed (humans) or cued (rats) to recall Set 1. Young rats and humans in the Reminder condition falsely recalled significantly more items from Set 2 than those in the No Reminder condition, suggesting that the reminder context triggered a reactivation of Set 1 on Day 2 and allowed the integration of Set 2 items into Set 1. In both species, older subjects displayed a different pattern of results than young subjects. In aged rats, there was no difference between conditions in the level of falsely recalled Set 2 items (intrusions). Older humans in the No Reminder condition made significantly more intrusions than those in the Reminder condition. Follow-up control experiments in aged rats suggested that intrusions in older animals reflected general interference, independent of context manipulations. We conclude that contextual reminders are not sufficient to trigger memory updating in aged rats or aged humans, unlike in younger individuals. Future studies using this animal model should further our understanding of the role of the hippocampus in memory maintenance and updating during normal aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-15
Number of pages9
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Aging
  • Memory
  • Reconsolidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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