Quantal Duration of Auditory Memories

Science  13 Dec 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5294, pp. 1909-1914
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5294.1909


Neuronal responses in the caudomedial neostriatum (NCM) of adult zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) decreased upon repeated, unreinforced presentations of conspecific song, calls, or other complex sounds. This “stimulus-specific habituation” is a form of learning, and its spontaneous loss, a form of “forgetting.” Spontaneous forgetting occurred only at narrowly defined times (2 to 3, 6 to 7, 14 to 15, 17 to 18.5, 46 to 48, or 85 to 89 hours after first exposure to a stimulus), determined by stimulus class, number of presentations, and interval between presentations. The first five forgetting times coincided with periods when gene expression and protein synthesis in NCM were required for maintenance of the longer lasting (85 to 89 hours) habituation. The number of successive episodes of gene expression induced by a stimulus, but occurring long after stimulus presentation, appears to determine the quantal duration of auditory memories.