The neural basis of implicit learning and memory: A review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging research

Paul J. Reber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

113 Scopus citations

Abstract

Memory systems research has typically described the different types of long-term memory in the brain as either declarative versus non-declarative or implicit versus explicit. These descriptions reflect the difference between declarative, conscious, and explicit memory that is dependent on the medial temporal lobe (MTL) memory system, and all other expressions of learning and memory. The other type of memory is generally defined by an absence: either the lack of dependence on the MTL memory system (nondeclarative) or the lack of conscious awareness of the information acquired (implicit). However, definition by absence is inherently underspecified and leaves open questions of how this type of memory operates, its neural basis, and how it differs from explicit, declarative memory. Drawing on a variety of studies of implicit learning that have attempted to identify the neural correlates of implicit learning using functional neuroimaging and neuropsychology, a theory of implicit memory is presented that describes it as a form of general plasticity within processing networks that adaptively improve function via experience. Under this model, implicit memory will not appear as a single, coherent, alternative memory system but will instead be manifested as a principle of improvement from experience based on widespread mechanisms of cortical plasticity. The implications of this characterization for understanding the role of implicit learning in complex cognitive processes and the effects of interactions between types of memory will be discussed for examples within and outside the psychology laboratory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2026-2042
Number of pages17
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume51
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Keywords

  • Implicit
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Nonconscious
  • Nondeclarative
  • Skill learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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