Center for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
Following its encoding, a memory undergoes consolidation. It may be possible to deepen our understanding of the mechanisms supporting consolidation by considering the complex architecture of a memory. Any behavior can be split into multiple components. For example, when learning a new skill we simultaneously learn the movement and the goal of that movement. Each of these components has a distinct representation within a memory. The "off-line" processing of each component may follow different rules, providing an explanation for the variety of performance changes supported by consolidation. By viewing a memory as a representation with multiple components, it is possible to bridge the gap between the behavioral changes, which define consolidation, and the biological mechanisms that support those changes. This is partly because different memory components can be mapped onto different neural circuits. With an increased understanding of consolidation, it may become possible to modulate these off-line processes to improve psychiatric and neurological rehabilitation.