One of the reasons why we forget past experiences is because we acquire new memories in the interim. Although the hippocampus is thought to be important for acquiring and retaining memories, there is little evidence linking neural operations during new learning to the forgetting (or remembering) of earlier events. We found that, during the encoding of new memories, responses in the human hippocampus are predictive of the retention of memories for previously experienced, overlapping events. This brain-behavior relationship is evident in neural responses to individual events and in differences across individuals. We found that the hippocampus accomplishes this function by reactivating older memories as new memories are formed; in this case, reactivating neural responses that represented monetary rewards associated with older memories. These data reveal a fundamental mechanism by which the hippocampus tempers the forgetting of older memories as newer memories are acquired.
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