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Neuron. 2017 Jun 21;94(6):1071-1084. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.04.037.

The Persistence and Transience of Memory.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, ON M1C 1A4, Canada; Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3G5, Canada; Learning in Machines and Brains Program, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Toronto, ON M5G 1M1, Canada.
2
Hospital for Sick Children, Program in Neurosciences and Mental Health, Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, 686 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5G 0A4, Canada; Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3, Canada; Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 1A8, Canada; Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 1A8, Canada; Child and Brain Development Program, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Toronto, ON M5G 1M1, Canada. Electronic address: paul.frankland@sickkids.ca.

Abstract

The predominant focus in the neurobiological study of memory has been on remembering (persistence). However, recent studies have considered the neurobiology of forgetting (transience). Here we draw parallels between neurobiological and computational mechanisms underlying transience. We propose that it is the interaction between persistence and transience that allows for intelligent decision-making in dynamic, noisy environments. Specifically, we argue that transience (1) enhances flexibility, by reducing the influence of outdated information on memory-guided decision-making, and (2) prevents overfitting to specific past events, thereby promoting generalization. According to this view, the goal of memory is not the transmission of information through time, per se. Rather, the goal of memory is to optimize decision-making. As such, transience is as important as persistence in mnemonic systems.

KEYWORDS:

behavioral flexibility; decision-making; forgetting; generalization; machine learning; neurogenesis; overfitting; regularization

PMID:
28641107
DOI:
10.1016/j.neuron.2017.04.037
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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