, Volume 106, Issue 11-12, pp 715-726,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 18 Nov 2012

Time scales of memory, learning, and plasticity


After only about 10 days would the storage capacity of our nervous system be reached if we stored every bit of input. The nervous system relies on at least two mechanisms that counteract this capacity limit: compression and forgetting. But the latter mechanism needs to know how long an entity should be stored: some memories are relevant only for the next few minutes, some are important even after the passage of several years. Psychology and physiology have found and described many different memory mechanisms, and these mechanisms indeed use different time scales. In this prospect we review these mechanisms with respect to their time scale and propose relations between mechanisms in learning and memory and their underlying physiological basis.

Christian Tetzlaff and Christoph Kolodziejski contributed equally for this study.