Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 106, Issue 11–12, pp 715–726 | Cite as

Time scales of memory, learning, and plasticity

  • Christian TetzlaffEmail author
  • Christoph Kolodziejski
  • Irene Markelic
  • Florentin Wörgötter
Open Access


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.


Working memory Short-term memory Long-term memory Short-term plasticity Long-term plasticity Structural plasticity Time scales 


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© The Author(s) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Tetzlaff
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christoph Kolodziejski
    • 1
  • Irene Markelic
    • 1
  • Florentin Wörgötter
    • 1
  1. 1.Bernstein Centre for Computational NeuroscienceIII. Institute of Physics–Biophysics, Georg-August-UniversitätGöttingenGermany

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