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Our experiences often overlap with each other, yet we are able to selectively recall individual memories to guide decisions and future actions. The neural mechanisms that support such precise memory recall remain unclear. Here, using ultra-high field 7T MRI we reveal two distinct mechanisms that protect memories from interference. The first mechanism involves the hippocampus, where the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal predicts behavioral measures of memory interference, and representations of context-dependent memories are pattern separated according to their relational overlap. The second mechanism involves neocortical inhibition. When we reduce the concentration of neocortical GABA using trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), neocortical memory interference increases in proportion to the reduction in GABA, which in turn predicts behavioral performance. These findings suggest that memory interference is mediated by both the hippocampus and neocortex, where the hippocampus separates overlapping but context-dependent memories using relational information, and neocortical inhibition prevents unwanted co-activation between overlapping memories.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





528 - 541.e6


EI balance, GABA, associative learning, hippocampus, inhibition, interference, memory, tDCS