Fate of the Original Retrieval Cues Following the Transfer of Memory in Rats

J.F. Briggs*, D.C. Riccio
Department of Psychology, Kent State University, Kent OH, USA

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© 2008 Briggs and Riccio.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Navy Experimental Diving Unit, 321 Bullfinch Road, Panama City, FL 32407, USA; Tel: (850) 230- 3102; Fax: (850) 230-3197; E-mail:


Exposure to contextual cues immediately after conditioning enables the new stimuli to retrieve the target memory. But what is the fate of the original cues after this type of transfer of properties? Have they been supplanted by the new cues, or are both sets of stimuli now effective? To address this issue, an experiment was conducted investigating the effectiveness of the original training cues following the transfer of retrieval cues to a new context. Rats were exposed to contextual cues different from training immediately after learning a punishment task. Subjects tested in the new context treated the context as if it were the original, i.e., retrieval cues were transferred to the shifted context. In addition, this transfer had no effect on the original memory as rats that were tested in the original context behaved similarly to those tested in the shifted context. It appears that this transfer of retrieval cues is not a case of erase-and-update, but rather the cues remain for the original context and also become associated with the new context where exposure took place.

Keywords: Retrieval cues, context, transfer of memory, passive avoidance, rat.